Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 4
|Ian Rans reports from the beach.|
There was a sense of relief after the first show got rolling, an "up-and-comers showcase" that served as a nice teaser to get people to the later shows. There were six comics, each doing five minutes, followed by the great Bill Young. Gus Lynch played emcee. It was his job to get the audience excited, though the first part of the event was the aforementioned dancing kids (15 second graders who had prepared a dance routine for the festival). They weren't too shabby, either. The opening dance also gave the comics enough time to collect their thoughts before it was their moment to shine. If only they had the same blue satin outfits!
The audience at these shows were 20 percent comedians, 20 percent parents of dancing children, and 60 percent tourists and locals -- about what organizers were expecting. Sadly, the outside stage wasn't the best spot for comedy, and the jokes didn't connect as well as they should have. Between the kids going person to person soliciting donations for the playground and loud, heckling birds, it went as well as it could have. While the comedians -- who are more of a force -- seem to go over well, the character-based comedy was getting lost in the ambiance of the city. This was also the first show of several that featured a dog accidentally walking through someone's set. Viva local flavor!
|Photo by Dan Hundley|
|Filming of Dave Johnson's set at the first show.|
The comedians have relocated to a villa called Casa del Sol near the end of Akumal's only street. It was built by the Grateful Dead, who are like invisible, respected elders here. New York has Fiorello La Guardia, New Orleans has Jean Lafitte, Akumal has Bob Weir. The villa is massive by anyone's scale, and is now housing practically everyone who's performing or running sound for the shows. There is a waterfall. There is an island just beyond the backyard. There are now drunk men drinking low-cost, high-octane rum in the pool. It's a wonderful place, full of Spanish influence and '80s opulence.
|Corey Adam at the villa's island.|
The younger comedians seem to be eating this up. The headliners seem to be eating this up. The road comics in the middle are charging forward with a head full of cerveza, and are slowly sweating it out.
Chad Daniels, the headliner of Saturday's flagship show, is happy that he's been able to take his wife along on a trip -- their first in who knows how long. "I'm just glad comedy is paying off for her for once," he jokes. Their schedules are usually in opposition of each other, but they're getting first-class treatment on this work vacation. And even though she's not here at the moment, he's using her as an excuse for the mango Daiquiri he just ordered at the bar.
|Bringing provisions to the actors while filming.|
My role in this film -- and I'm exaggerating greatly to call it a role -- is that of Confused Tourist. Chris Conroy, Kjell Bjorgen, and Chad are playing frat boys who are heckling my character from one of the 20-foot-tall crow's nests at La Buena Vida. This is the extent of my role, but I'm thrilled to be a part of it no matter how fuchsia I become in the beach sun. I have no lines, I'm just giving a couple angles of looking confused and taking the ample insults being thrown my way. I nailed it, naturally. This is the fourth of probably 10 shoots today, and the filmmakers are still handling it with aplomb.
La Buena Vida is also home to what were the best shows of the last two days: The Blue Show. Shows one and two each day were done for random guests. Show two was for a dinner crowd at a lovely higher-end restaurant called Lol Ha, but the less typed about these performances, the better. The audience was made up of confused people on vacation at the beginning, and ended with them less confused ... and more angry. Gus concluded the second show there with "Let's keep Akumal old and white!" That summed up the night and its audience nicely.
|Chris Maddock at the Blue Show.|
|Photo by Dan Hundley|
But the third and last show were for people looking for some danger. No surprise, these were the shows to see. They were originally booked as a chance for the comedians to perform some of their less friendly fare. The idea mutated from performing edgier material to doing a set the comedians believed to be blue. Big difference.
There were gasps and there was stunned silence, but I don't believe one person walked out. Everyone at the show still seemed to be really excited about the festival, no matter how many times the term "fisting" was tossed about. Gabe Noah especially excelled at these shows. (See his set sometime and find out why.) The same goes for Nate Abshire, Chris Maddock, and Corey Adam. Before their sets they were just tan and drunk, but they became bronze gods on the stage.
|Ian Rans outside the Blue Show with Gus Lynch.|
|Photo by Dan Hundley|
Phoebe Bottoms came down with a sore throat and did her set through Mitch Hansen as an intermediary. It was probably the most original set of the fest and, amazingly and probably accidentally, harkened back to the glory days of comedy duos.
The room was totally packed and I chatted -- on a dangerously overloaded stairway outside -- with festival co-headliner Darlene Westgor. A nationally touring comic, she noticed something different about this festival: All of the comics watched the other comics. There has been no hiding in the back of the room, and there has been very little milling at the bar before a comic goes on. Everyone is in this together.
- Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 1
- Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 2
- Ian Rans and friends hit the road for Mexico: Part 3