Garfunkel and Oates
The Pyramid Scheme
March 8, 9, show times at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
pyramidschemebar.com, (616) 272-3758
Folk-comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates started out with a series of lo-fi YouTube videos that Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome had created for the amusement of friends and family. Thousands of hits later, it became apparent the duo was on to something.
"We said, 'Let's make another one! Oh wow, people liked that one, let's make another one!' And it kind of went from there," Micucci said.
Eventually, Micucci and Lindhome decided to take the show live.
"All of a sudden we were playing shows with really fun people and it was kind of infectious," Micucci said.
While at first, they weren't sure how to approach the live set, they figured out their niche quickly.
"When we started, we didn't know if we were going to do comedy clubs or music clubs because it's a little bit of both, and then once we were on stage it was just so much more fun to make people laugh," Lindhome said.
Since then they have released three albums, toured extensively, had their music featured on "Scrubs" (on an episode where Micucci appeared briefly as the beloved Stephanie Gooch) and collaborated with artists such as Childish Gambino.
Micucci and Lindhome also have strong careers outside of Garfunkel and Oates. Micucci has her own solo musical act titled "Playin with Micucci," and Lindhome currently hosts the Nerdist podcast "Making It." Both regularly act in television and film roles as well. They admit it's becoming increasingly difficult to find time for Garfunkel and Oates, but they remain committed to the project. Recently, this means working late into the night on new material.
"We just take any chance when we have free time to try and work," Micucci said.
Currently, they are writing and recording their fourth studio album, and will soon film a handful of videos to promote it.
Grand Rapids will have a chance to see Garfunkel and Oates perform at LaughFest. The girls make it clear that it will be an R-rated performance, and with songs such as "F--- You" and "Handjob, Blandjob, I Don't Understand Job," it's probably best to keep the kids at home.
"One time, a town actually said we were doing a children's brunch," Micucci said. "So that was interesting."
March 17, 7 p.m.
$22.50 (Reserved Seating)
Sometimes comedy is a family affair – at least for Gary Valentine. Take for instance the way he was introduced to the world of comedy.
"It was in 1988 when my mother signed me up for an open mic night at a local comedy club," Valentine said.
Where most comedians have to explain to their parents why they decided to give up their office job and toss out their college credentials to pursue a career in comedy, Valentine had his mother there egging him on.
But his mom isn't his only enabler. For a while, he had a recurring role as Cousin Danny on the hit show "King of Queens," where he acted alongside his brother, Kevin James.
"I have a bit in my stand-up act about an Italian pizza maker in New York," he said. "And we figured it'd be a funny way to work my character onto 'King of Queens.'"
At the get-go, Valentine proved to be a natural while filming in front of a live audience, but that's probably in part to his years of experience in stand-up.
"With television, it's an immediate reaction," Valentine said. "It's more like stand-up because there's a live audience, and when you say a funny line you get an immediate response, and you know if something is funny or not."
"King of Queens" isn't the only time Valentine and James collaborated. Valentine has also worked with his brother on The Zookeeper and Here Comes the Boom. And while sibling rivalry is slim, Valentine says the hardest part of working on these movies is keeping a straight face.
"You laugh a lot," Valentine said. "It's hard to get through the scenes sometimes."
Of course, the acting gigs and collaborations make up only part of Valentine's career. He has an impressive history of stand-up from performing at the Montreal Comedy Festival to appearing on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and other late night talk shows. He has also been headlining comedy clubs for more than 15 years, delivering his own brand of comedy inspired by the silliness of Steve Martin, but with a twist.
"It's more of the guy who thinks he's on top of it and has it all figured out, and really he has no clue."
March 8 and 9, show times at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
laughfestgr.org, (616) 356-2000
Podcasts are all the rage these days. Whether you're a political junkie, music snob, science geek, foodie or basically a fan of any subject, chances are there is a podcast out there tailor-made for you. And if you happen to be a fan of fandom? Look no further than Jackie Kashian's "Dork Forest."
"I have people on the show that talk about something they love, something they're very enthusiastic about for an hour," Kashian said. "It could be anything from baseball to comic books and science fiction."
Topics highlighted in past episodes include (but are not limited to): origami, ventriloquism, LARPing, Aquaman and Dungeons and Dragons. She even broadcasts live versions of the show where she travels, meets up with a "local dork luminary" and records the podcast live (one such episode features her interviewing a man who transformed his DeLorean into a replica of the time machine in Back to the Future).
It's no surprise that Kashian makes her living having conversations with people. She's always been an avid talker, which got her into comedy. The story involves seven shots of tequila, a Sam Kinison show and Kashian's loquacious personality.
"I was immediately told by management to shut up and that open mic was on Sundays," Kashian said. "I came back three weeks later and did a little stand-up comedy."
This incident kick-started what would become a lucrative career for Kashian, complete with a half-hour televised comedy special, guest appearances on "The Bob & Tom Show" and two comedy albums (the most recent, It Is Never Going to Be Bread made it onto Amazon.com's "Best of 2010" list). She tours extensively, sometimes spending literally half the year on the road.
She has also performed her one-woman stage show titled, "It's a Terrible Burden Being Right," which is comprised of her telling in-depth, poignant personal stories. Some of the material from this show is also featured in her stand-up act, though she presents it in a condensed format.
"When you take a story and you turn it into stand-up, what you do is just end up tightening it up," she said.
On March 8 and 9, Kashian will be part of LaughFest's Clean Comedy Showcase, where fans can see the act she's honed over the past 15 years.
For Jim Breuer, stand-up comedy is a crass and priceless art form.
"It's probably the only thing you'll see live that's unedited and completely raw," he said. "You just don't know what you're getting when you go see live comedy, and I love that."
Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids
March 10, 7 p.m.
$27.50 - $32.50
laughfestgr.org, (616) 459-8386
Breuer's breakout was his 1995-1998 stint on "Saturday Night Live," where one of his characters was the memorable-yet-slightly annoying Goat Boy.
"I was just a blue collar kid and then the next thing you know I was with the biggest stars and rock bands in the world," he said about his early success. "I always had one foot back home in awe as a fan, and then I had my other foot in waiting to get up to the plate and smash a homerun."
After "SNL," Breuer co-starred with Dave Chapelle in the cult stoner comedy Half-Baked and soon after, ventured back into stand-up. In the early 2000s, Breuer toured heavily and made various television and film appearances. When he got married and had kids he took on a hosting gig for Sirius Radio, which allowed him to stay at home with his family.
In 2008, Breuer decided it was time to return to the stand-up circuit. While on the road he filled much of his free time writing anecdotes he later compiled in his book, I'm Not High (But I've Got a Lot of Crazy Stories about Life as a Goat Boy, a Dad, and a Spiritual Warrior).
With all on his plate, however, he feels it's time to ease up on the touring once again.
"I'm getting older, my wife has breast cancer, my oldest daughter is going into high school," Breuer said. "To me, it's about being a family warrior first. You've got to set an example and you've got to be there. And if you've got to cut back, you've got to cut back."
Breuer still plans on touring, but he will be ditching small comedy clubs and bars in favor of performing arts centers and larger venues. During LaughFest he'll be performing a clean set of jokes at the Fountain Street Church. And who knows? He might break out Goat Boy or his iconic Joe Pesci impression. Remember, when it comes to comedy you never know what to expect.