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Columns

June 4, 2014

House of Burgess: Limestone Comedy Festival journal II

Bloomington once again alive with laughter

After last year’s inaugural Limestone Comedy Festival in Bloomington, it was hard to imagine the sequel meeting the high standard of the first. It was clear from the first show Thursday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, this year’s celebration surpassed it in many ways. Opening headliner Patton Oswalt fought an impending illness and a "phantom" beeping sound in the crowd to deliver a riotous performance, which included bits from his recently-released album, “Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time.” Mat Alano-Martin, comedian and festival co-director, performed a short opening set before Oswalt took the stage. “It was an honor and very cool,” he said Monday.

Friday’s headliner, Jimmy Pardo, laid down a quick-witted performance, mainly focused on spontaneous crowd work. Backstage, between shows, Pardo told me he has used the same skeleton of an act for a few years now, but with plenty of room left for the unexpected.

“I improvised about 70 percent of that, and 30 percent is the act,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, Pardo and cohorts Pat Francis and Matt Belknap again took to the BCT stage to record an episode of their long-running podcast, “Never Not Funny.” Pardo said doing live versions of their normally in-studio show offered different challenges when an audience was involved.

“When you’re doing it live there’s obviously the immediacy,” he said. “I think you go more for the laugh more than you do in the studio.”

Saturday’s headliner, Emo Philips, definitely earned the advertised title of “legendary.” He was absolutely one of the best comedians I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

“The festival draws such a marvelous audience! Now I know how pilots feel when they get a tailwind the entire flight,” he told me Monday. His set was a physical, multimedia experience complete with examples of demented greeting cards, and the screening of a 1992 silent film, “The Can Man,” which Philips accompanied on stage with a clarinet. In addition to performing during the festival, Philips was also in the midst of being filmed for an upcoming movie, “Stalking Emo.”

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