COMEDY: Best Of The Fest

Wrapping up the Comedy Festival, down to the last laugh

Julie Seabaugh


Monday afternoon's news that headliner Dave Chappelle had cancelled his performance, originally scheduled for Thursday night in the Colosseum. No reason was given.

BEST day claiming (LIBERALly) to be PART OF THE FESTIVAL

Tuesday, November 14, when there were no stand-up shows scheduled, the only bustle in the Comedy Village—an interactive lounge housed in a sponsor-saturated tent—was that of boxes being unpacked and workers setting up riggings, and the sole entertainment to speak of was a "party" hosted by shticky film critic Woody Wittman and hometown American Idol contestant Mikalah Gordon. Full of speechifying by Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner, trivia contests and dance-offs, and appearances by a slew of stilt-walkers, showgirls and felt specimens from the Jim Henson Company's Puppet Up! troupe, the early highlight came when Wittman—offhandedly described by one attendee as "the poor man's Gene Shalit"—slowly lost his glued-on mustache.


Thankfully the "dog" aspect of Tuesday's dog-and-pony show received special emphasis when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was introduced to the thinning crowd. "Thanks for killing the room, assholes!" he chastised before receiving recognition as an honorary member of Metro's K-9 division. "My brother was a bomb-sniffing dog ... He can detect Carrot Top's act from three miles away." When a flesh-and-blood German shepherd apparently got jealous of the accreditation and tried to attack Robert Smigel's plastic-encased hand, the bow-tied toy rottweiler responded, "I will fuck you up! I swear to God!"


Sex and the City star and Thursday headliner Mario Cantone taking a spin around the tent atop a Roman chaise, flanked by two toga-clad Chippendales dancers, naturally.

Seriously, why doesn't anyone make announcements in the Festival Village tent when there are celebrity goings-on? Jamie Kennedy hung out in the KXTE corner for 15 minutes Friday afternoon with no one noticing.


"Nobody does it better crowd-work wise," a visibly welling-up Dave Attell said after receiving a torch-passing shout-out at the end of the legendary Don Rickles' two-encore insult-athon. "He's a genius on his feet. Being put down by Rickles is like being punched in the face by Tyson. It's an honor."


From Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's Poopapalooza II:

"Dave Chappelle is flakier than Courtney Love's public hair!"

"They're getting ready to blow up that monstrosity from the '50s—you know, Wayne Newton."

"It's Celine Dion's theater! You're liable to catch second-hand suck!"

"How about that Hoover Dam? I haven't seen anything retain water like that since Wynonna Judd's last period! Oooh, you just crossed the line, little dog!"


The Comedy Festival Presents: A Salute to the Troops & USO began with the ending. Thirty minutes in, Kid Rock had closed the TBS taping with "Baby Come Home" and closing announcements sounded overhead. The 500 troops from California and Nevada and their family members were a bit confused, though they quickly bounced back when Carmen Electra took to the Augustus Ballroom stage to "begin" the show with the introduction of host Jay Mohr and comics Frank Caliendo, D.L. Hughley and Louis C.K. The most telling moments occurred off-camera, however, when Electra hung out in the audience to pose for pictures, and Mohr dragged David Spade onstage to kill some down time since, "Here's the deal: I don't have any jokes. I retired." Mohr even confessed, "If it was up to me, I'd be upstairs with Nikki Cox right now," though he redeemed himself by accepting a push-up challenge. Naturally, military and political humor dominated the evening, and though there was tons of down time—the Salute ended up running about a half-hour late and a whole lot of testosterone-heavy.


Don't be fooled by the exaggerated stories and good-natured Super Fingers (aka the SuFi); there's a deadly serious side to the unstoppable Dane Train.

The Colosseum was full for the second Tourgasm show of the evening, Jay Davis was so energetic he knocked over the onstage stool, Gary Gulman's sing-songy, nearly William Shatner-esque delivery of his cerebral musings killed, and self-described "negative douche" Robert Kelly had blown the roof off with his endearingly neurotic personal deficiencies. Cook emerged to a strobe effect of camera flashes and was in the thick of describing the dual nature of Oprah Winfrey when a plastic beer bottle bounced up on the stage several feet away. Dead silence, then the crowd booed and pointed to a central seat near the stage. "Who threw that?" Cook barked. "Dude, you're out. You've got to go. Security, this guy threw a bottle. He needs to leave." The offender stood, shrugged and exited. Cook continued with a bit about herpes before closing with the sneeze/Jesus bit from his recent Vicious Circle HBO special, but the effect was akin to some fan tossing a beer bottle onstage at a Kiss concert back in the day ... and the contents splashing all the makeup off of Paul Stanley for the very first time. Lesson learned: It's tough to get to the top, even tougher to stay there, and despite his of-the-people demeanor, it's unwise to mess with Dane Cook, even when there was no real malice involved. Even MySpace gods are human.


Surely between all the Sierra Mist commercials and endless ads for TBS's new sitcom, My Boys, Festival organizers could have persuaded Jim "Hot Pockets" Gaffigan to appear in the festival tent. Alas, personal appearances pretty much hit the glass ceiling with headliner Pablo Francisco.


The final stop on Maxim's Real Men of Comedy tour showcased John Heffron's "I'm Not a Boy, I'm Not Yet a Man" befuddlements, Charlie Murphy's politically incorrect thinking man's monologue (though, seriously, Charlie, throwing a few actual jokes into the mix couldn't hurt) and Joe Rogan's Bill Hicks-inspired social rage. And if seeing drunk girls who shout nasty things at onstage comedians and are subsequently ripped new assholes is your thing, Rogan's takedown of a heckler—"You're basically a monkey with a language. ... I'm going to wrap my dick around your neck and start you up like a lawn mower"—was easily the highlight of the week.


Wednesday: Friends of the Bob & Tom Radio Show comic Roy Wood Jr. shocked to be recognized on the Caesars casino floor; celebrity chef Bobby Flay enjoying an employee being brought onstage by Don Rickles to enact a World War II skit; Wayne Brady boarding Forum Tower elevator.

Thursday: Bruce Vilanch walking by the boxers- and arrow-through-the-head-bedecked David statue; megaproducers/Tonight Show bookers Bob Read and Ross Mark leaving the ultraexclusive Lounge area; John Landis everywhere (the director was in town shooting a Rickles doc).

Friday: Non-festival performer George Wallace taking advantage of the tent's free putting green before angling for photo-op time alongside Jamie Kennedy; power manager Jason Steinberg combing the Festival tent for his lost Blackberry; John Heffron and For Adults Only comic Jeffrey Ross chatting at the base of the Conference Area escalators; Jerry "Turtle" Ferrara, wearing an Entourage-approved Yankees baseball cap, parked at a $50 minimum-bet blackjack table after presumably tilting at Pure's Comedy Cares Celebrity Poker Tournament

Saturday: Soprano and Comic Relief presenter Steve Schirripa making his way across the casino floor; a slimmed-down George Lopez treading the shopping esplanade; Kathy Griffin holding hands with some dude near the base of the statue; Entourage's Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara heading from Cleopatra's Way to the Colosseum; David Spade talking to fans outside Paradiso; Jay Mohr and Ron Jeremy (separately) taking in the final show of the Fest: Sarah Silverman and Her Magical Friends Weirdo (Brian Posehn) and Beardo (Zach Galifianakis).

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