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Schlock and Keys
Comedians of Comedy and the indie-rockers of indie rock

To say that Patton Oswaltís brand of comedy isnít for everyone is an understatement on par with, like, "Hitler was mean." What with his calling Cirque du Soleil "gay catnip for old people" and referring to Jägermeister as "the Special Olympics in a shot glass," itís safe to assert that the diminutive Californianís humor is fit only for the kind of hip, young crowd that packed the Paradise last Wednesday. They came in droves ó all ironic T-shirts and spectacles ablaze ó to see the Bill Hicks of a new generation on the Comedians of Comedy tour, a brief six-city jaunt that featured Oswalt and four like-minded stander-uppers taping sets for an upcoming Comedy Central series.

Oswalt was the most recognizable face on the bill thanks to his role on CBSís The King of Queens, and after he did a bit of crowd warming, Zach Galifianakis got the evening under way. Sporting a Grizzly Adams beard that made him look more than a bit like a child molester ("I told my stylist to give me the ĎAmber Alertí "), Galifianakis tore through his set from behind a piano, freestyling absent-mindedly on the ivories as he deadpanned one-liners in a style reminiscent of Steven Wright. Midway through his set, he said his material was going to get "a little deeper," and a spotlight shone into the Paradiseís balcony to reveal his accompanist, a goateeíd saxophonist playing smooth jazz licks more befitting of John Tesh than Lenny Bruce. By the time he left the stage, he was asking the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" to his father, who may or may not have been on the other end of his cell phone. Didnít really matter ó we were more than happy to oblige.

From there, things got a bit stale. Brian Posehn (of Mr. Show fame) and special guest Todd Barry got laughs, but they relied on old material that was already familiar to the comedy geeks ó pretty much everyone ó in the house. But at least their sets were true to the style of the evening, which is more than I can say for Maria Bamford, whose goofy-voiced musings on her fatherís driving habits and the perils of being a 35-year-old single woman were out of place. It took an encore set from Oswalt to make sure everyone left happy.

Before we go any farther, quick question: why does everyone get an encore now? Does it really make a band feel good to walk off stage for 30 seconds and then walk back on to moderate applause? And is it worth the trouble when youíre just gonna play a sloppy cover song, leave your instruments feedbacking, and then come back out to break down your own gear?

I ask this not of Patton but of Keys to the Streets of Fear, who opened for Black Helicopter at T.T.ís on Friday and committed said faux pas. It was a silly end to an otherwise great set that found frontman Pasquale leading the band in a drunken cluster of noisy-as-shit blues/garage rumblings. But these werenít no Jack White compositions ó think Jon Spencer after a particularly intoxicated . . . er, inspiring trip to Twisted Village. In stark contrast was Black Helicopterís sober set of more straightforward, Shellac-y indie rock. Although I canít fault them for tight jams like "Casio," I guess I expected something a little more adventurous from a band with a record coming this fall on Thurston Mooreís Ecstatic Peace label. Dudes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the man said: "Kill yr idols."

Issue Date: August 12 - 18, 2005
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