Headliner: Jeff Caldwell

Morty’s Comedy Joint

April 4-7

I didn’t make it in time to soak in the pre-show jazz concert that Morty’s has been featuring the last few weeks, but plenty of other folks did and most of them stuck around for the comedy show. The result was a crowd that had the room bulging at the seams, easily the biggest I’ve run into at the fledgling Northside club.

Owner Eric Shorts kicked off the show, and for the second week running he was showing some rust. A funny guy, with crisp material and excellent pace, Shorts was showing simply off his game, peppering his act with too-long pauses and a bout of tongue tripping that was uncharacteristic. After locals Hank McGill — trying on a new persona: Guy Colorado — and John Branyon took the stage (the uncomfortably crowded bill being the one novel approach Morty’s is sorely missing the mark on; too many shows here stumble out of the gate due to the lack of momentum and focus), Los Angeles radio DJ Lease came out and kicked it.

The room went zero to 50 in a skinny beat and there was no looking back. Edges weren’t pushed, they were insulted. Strip clubs, eating disorders, interracial dating, all treated with a charming disregard for appropriateness that somehow came off as equal parts of down-home innocence and over-the-top offensive. Ever wonder why some women have “winter bodies,” fat guys make better personal trainers or why some girls need a better goalie for their vaginas? Lease had the answers, taking time out only to add to the running commentary of his own act. “I’m rocking this crowd tonight people.” Very meta.

Headliner Jeff Caldwell was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was urbane, witty and polished, but trotting out an NPR vocab (“proffered fruit,” “satyr” and “jovial” slid off his tongue almost immediately) after Lease salted the room wasn’t gonna cut it. Caldwell played the depressive to Lease’s manic, but nobody went home blue.

 

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