Sketchfest Review: Iron Comic hosted by Nato Green at The Punch Line, 1/20/11

by Marie Carney on January 22, 2011

Per Brendan Lynch, this is a white person's problem.

To be honest, when I arrived at the Punch Line on Thursday night I still had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that one of my favorite comedians, Matt Braunger, was performing and that he would be funny.  Since it is a SF Sketchfest show, I knew I wouldn’t be watching a standard stand-up performance.  What I got was an evening full of pleasant surprises, where women dominated, the guy with all the sex jokes bombed, and I laughed so hard I cried.

The host for the evening, local comedian Nato Green, came on stage to introduce the concept for the evening.  Iron Comic takes audience submitted topics and has five comics do two minutes on each.  The comics have about ten minutes to write after the topic is selected during which another local comedian will perform to keep us entertained.  What commenced after this was non-stop laughs in many different styles.

After the five competing comedians were introduced: Sean Keane, Emily Heller, Conor Kellicut, Brendan Lynch and Matt Braunger.  Nato Green pulled a topic out of a hat:  nuns.  The competitors were sent off and the first stand-up performer took the stage.  Her name was Dhaya Lakshminarayanan and she did a great job getting us all laughing.  She had an excellent nerdy style and set the tone for the women to kick some ass.

Once, her set was done the audience was all warmed up and the iron comics were brought back in to do their material on nuns.  There were a lot of expected jokes about priests molesting little boys and getting beaten by nuns in catholic school, but what was less expected was multiple references to Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.  By the time this round was over it was clear that A) it was not going to be a good night for Conor Kellicut who ended up getting frustrated and angry (reasonably so) at the audience’s lack of response to his whore-nun jokes and B) it was going to be a tough competition between the other four.

The next topic selected, after many were rejected by host Nato Green, was passive aggressiveness, and this time Nato Green took the stage to give us a ten minute set while the other comics wrote.  It was quite good and very San Francisco centric, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.  Then the Iron Comics came out and did their passive aggressive material.  Conor Kellicut didn’t take this opportunity to win the audience back and essentially gave up with a bit of a screw you gesture towards the audience.  As for the other four, in the first round Emily Heller had made me laugh the most and she proved to me in this round that she was to be the stand out for the evening.

It was the next topic picked that ended up being the biggest surprise of the evening when they pulled out of the hat one of our table’s topics:  Zombies vs Unicorns (which may have had something to do with the fact that I am reading the book of the same name).  I was ecstatic that the topic got a cheer from the audience and a thumbs up from Matt Braunger, though, in retrospect, the high five between Heather and I might have been a bit much.  Needless to say I was very excited for what was to come.

Before that though, we were treated to the comedy stylings of Ali Wong, another local comedian.  She was the tiniest, dirtiest and hilarious-ist thing.  Again, she had a very San Francisco-centric set with jokes about public transportation and vegans.  My notes at this point just have the word awesomeness with an arrow pointing to her name, which is really all you need to know.

Then it was Zombies vs Unicorns time and I was very excited.  Matt Braunger did it justice, Sean Keane was very funny and Emily Heller killed it by doing a pros and cons list of who would make a better boyfriend, a zombie or a unicorn.  Around this point though my evening took a turn for the worse when, within a minute of each other, comedian Brendan Lynch decided to single out my table because of his anger at the topic choice, and letting that drift into jokes of how white and nerdy the crowd in general was. It was still funny and I might have taken it better if, moments later, security hadn’t come up to me and told me I couldn’t take notes anymore.  And then I got mad.

So I apologize to the next comedian Alex (I have no idea what his last name is because I wasn’t allowed to write it down), because I don’t think I heard a word of your set.  Though I’m sure he was very funny because there was a lot of laughter in the room.

Then the judges votes came in and the two finalists of the Iron Comics were Emily Heller and Brendan Lynch.  I thought both Matt Braunger and Sean Keene were much funnier than Brendan Lynch, but he did have a nice awkward, slow persona that was quite different than the others and made him stand out.  The finalists then had to participate in a quickfire round where topics were pulled from the hat and they instantly did material on the topics.  While Brendan Lynch focused on his second topic pulled, teen pregnancy, Emily Heller did a quickfire of one or two liners about each topic pulled leaving us in stitches again.  Of course, by thunderous applause, she won the competition.

It was a fun night that I would go to again, and Dakin and I at least are going to see Emily Heller again (she’s back at the Punch Line on March 8th).  And I’m never going to look at my Zombies vs Unicorns book the same way again.

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