Friday, March 2, 2012
At The Improv in Houston: PAUL MOONEY
On March 1, 2012. the comedy legend Paul Mooney had me laughing harder than I had in a very long time. The wicked genius was in top form as he proceeded to give the opening night Thursday crowd a three hour show! It was supremely funny, harsh, and fierce, sparing no one and leaving everyone's bullshit out in the open for examination.
Having long had a dream to watch a live Paul Mooney set, this was really a thrill. The best comedians are the dangerous comedians. Paul Mooney is the last living legend in this category. The others are all dead or just up and comers. Chris Rock may put on great thought provoking comedy shows, but they are a pale shadow of the visceral Paul Mooney experience, and he is certainly not dangerous.
Chris Rock is a big Hollywood star, and plays the game. Paul Mooney is too dangerous for Hollywood. He hits too hard and too revealingly. He even gets kicked off the stage at Harlem's famous Apollo theatre for talking shit about George W. and his mother Barbara Bush, offending the people at Time Warner who run Showtime at the Apollo.
Arriving at the Houston Improv, my wife and I saw taped up sheets of paper on the box office windows reading "Controversial Comedy Show Tonight," as a warning it seemed. To me that always reads more like a successful ploy to get me in! Having been very familiar with Paul Mooney this was just funny to me, but if I had not known of him I would have wanted to see the show just because the comedy club felt it had to warn people! It is amazing what a man and a microphone can do to strike fear in people.
The opening comedian and MC for the night came on around 8:00 PM. He was funny and lighthearted enough to get the crowd going. The second act was an older comedian from Dallas who was too corny and stodgy to get over in this crowd. When he finished, and the MC began to announce Paul Mooney the crowd went wild. The show we attended was the first night of a 3 night stand. On Thursday he had one show scheduled, but he was to do two sets on Friday and two on Saturday as well. We figured to go to the first show so we catch him at his loosest, which is what you want with the mature seasoned comedians. We chose well.
He got onstage instantly talking shit about how "they never listen, the bastards," complaining that they had put a stool on stage when he wanted a chair. After grabbing one from the crowd and getting settled in, Paul Mooney proceeded to riff on everything that crossed his mind.
One of the disappointing aspects of stand up comedy sometimes is when a comedian does a set that is filled with too many jokes or routines you have already heard. The great ones have so much on their minds that they can talk and make you laugh and rarely tread the same comedic ground. Paul Mooney did a very long set, longer than any comedy set I had even heard of, with the exception of Bill Cosby who regularly does 2 hour plus sets. Out of everything maybe only about 10% was material that I was familiar with. I could not stop laughing, and at times, could not muster a sound, because Paul Mooney walks that thin line between making you laugh and making you nervous! It was great.
Before I knew it my watch read 10:30 PM. Two hours, and he was nowhere near stopping it looked like to us. He kept riffing and making everyone laugh crazy even as the Improv waitstaff was cleaning the tables and putting up everything. People were checking the time and leaving because it was getting so late! The red light they flash to the talent to let them know their time is up had come on a while before, and then Mooney mentioned it. He said something along the lines of,
"That red light's been on for like fifteen minutes (actually more like 35 minutes - RXTT) but I don't give a fuck."
He then looked at his watch and his face appeared shocked. He exclaimed, "It cannot be 11:30, can it?" and many in the crowd went "Wha..???" loudly because they had lost track of time too!!! My wife turned to me with a look of shock, thinking that maybe it was around 10-10:15 PM!
A three hour Thursday night set by legend Paul Mooney. Amazing what $20 can get ya.
As we cleared out we went to the merchandise table where Paul and a lady who was maybe his road manager were selling CD's and DVD's of his shows. I saw one I had not heard yet from 1997 called "Masterpiece" and paid for it. The lady asked me my name and I said it, trying to pronounce it so she could easily understand, "Ro-Ber-To."
"Reeburra?" she asked and handed my CD to Paul Mooney. I repeated my name trying to correct her and saw Paul scribble something on the CD and sign his name. He looked at me as he handed it to me and said "Thank you."
I looked down and started laughing my ass off because he had signed it "ReBRA, Paul Mooney"
It was a great night and exceeded my expectations in every way.