The attendance at this show was a little light. It might be because the show happened on a Sunday night. It might also be that few people in the west coast are aware of the genius of Dave Hill. Maybe people were just thrown off by the notion of Moby being involved in comedy. No matter how you slice or dice it, for the 2nd year straight, people really missed out on one of the best shows in Sketchfest.
Hill’s shtick is pretty cut & dry. He is a shy, soft spoken guy that wears 70’s era vintage suits. His delivery is a bit monotonous, and it works for him. His opening monologue was about gay socks. I’ll let you decide what that entails, because, well, it’s not cool for me to simply repeat jokes. He then flipped into the theme to The Dave Hill Explosion, where Hill moved from shy guy to crazy shirtless man that figuratively exploded all over the stage. The he moved to the literal, with an obscene amount of little exploding paper caps that he littered throughout the stage and the covered the entire stage with soapy bubbles. It was ridiculous.
The format of the show is typical late night talk show format. He segues between portions of the show using videos he made, which ranged from commercial parodies, to segments from fake movies that he’s working on. He even had a great Stomp! parody, featuring an annoyed Martha Plimpton, who sadly was called into her day job at the TV show Raising Hope and couldn’t actually make it to the show.
His first guest was Moby. He did not appear as a musical guest, per se. Instead, he was a brilliant guest. He mocked Hill for making a gay joke in San Francisco. He perpetually begged Hill to play a brutal guitar solo. (Note: Moby & Dave Hill have a band called diamondsnake) They interacted like really awkward best friends. It was fun, but weird. At no point in the interview did it feel like a “professional” event, and that was great. Moby has a really dry comical cadence, and they played off each other nicely.
The next guest, who filled in at the last minute for Plimpton, was local comic Will Franken, whose brash delivery was a refreshing change of pace from the mellow of Hill & Moby. He did a lot of local jokes, including a focus on the largely forgotten neighborhood of Bernal Heights. More entertaining was when Moby continuously interrupted Franken’s interview with Hill by strumming classic rock riffs on his acoustic guitar. At times I thought Hill was going to break character and hit Moby.
This was all fun & good, but the best part of the show was the Thao Nguyen portion of the event. She was accompanied by her drummer, and she sounded great. It was amazing watching them do their brand of danceable folk pop with Moby sitting and staring in awe. Her drummer, Ezra, is one of the greatest in the business, and he didn’t hold back during this very short set in a strange setting. For the third song of the set, Hill pulled out an electric and sat in for an especially lively reading of “Fear and Convenience,” complete with Moby coating the stage with more suds and bubbles than a single comedy club could ever contain!
Of course, every show needs a big finish. It’s even better when it’s entirely unplanned. Moby grabbed Thao’s guitar, and forced everyone into an impromptu “Purple Rain.” Moby & Nguyen harmonized, Ezra killed on the drums, and Hill actually out thundered Prince’s epic solo.
Seriously, I don’t want to see The Dave Hill Explosion playing to a half full house next year. Everyone in the room experienced some solid entertainment, and it might have been the best kept secret of the the entire festival!
And for those of you keep track, here’s Thao Nguyen’s setlist:
Know Better Learn Faster
Fear and Convenience (w/ Dave Hill on guitar)
Purple Rain (w/ Moby & Dave Hill)