[Editor’s note: Like last year, I’m giving you an early look at the headliners for the Limestone Comedy Festival before General Admission ($75) and Friday/Saturday Only ($50) badges go on sale April 1. VVIIPP ($175) and VIP ($125) badges are now on sale. For more on LCF — slated for May 29 to 31 in Bloomington — check next Wednesday’s Lifestyle section for the complete story. In the meantime, head to limestonefest.com.]
All three headliners of the second annual Limestone Comedy Festival helped form the bedrock of the style of comedy I have loved as long as I can remember. You know how the first few albums by bands like The Kinks, The Who and The Stooges are called “proto-punk,” meaning they were punk rock before there was punk rock? That’s what Emo Philips is to so-called “alternative” comedy.
“Everybody hates that phrase, but it’s the one that kind of sums up what we do,” said Mat Alano-Martin, LCF co-director. “Emo was a huge influence.”
I think every comedy fan around my age has entered the orbit of “Weird Al” Yankovic at some point, and Philips has worked with him for years; including co-starring in the 1989 film “UHF.”
“I will always, with zero hesitation, accept an offer from ‘Weird Al,’" Philips told me. “Al, if you're reading this: that does not include yard work.” I remember staying up late and recording episodes of the cartoons “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” off TV, and then watching the VHS tapes over and over. Philips starred in both, and has been an integral part in shaping my own sense of humor.
I have a 2-hour round-trip commute each day and podcasts have kept me company during such times for quite a while. Back in the mid-2000s, when I was just figuring what podcasts were, Jimmy Pardo was pioneering the art form with “Never Not Funny,” a comedy show co-starring producer Matt Belknap.
Eight years after its founding, the total number of episodes now reaches into the four-digit arena. The show has been recorded in Bloomington twice, and is scheduled to do so again at the festival.
I also always enjoy hearing Pardo guest star on other podcasts because of his quick mind. I often suffer from what the French call “l'esprit d'escalier,” or “staircase wit,” which means I’ll think of the perfect thing to say long after the moment has passed. Pardo doesn’t seem to have this problem.
“What I’m good at, is being funny in the moment,” Pardo told me, “because not everybody can do it.”
In fact, he’s so good at it, since 2009 he has also been working the self-described “best job in the world” as warm-up comic for Conan O’Brien, first at “The Tonight Show,” and now at “Conan.”
Almost 10 years ago, it was the summer between my junior and senior years at Indiana University. I have so many memories of my friends and me sitting around listening to the debut album by Patton Oswalt, “Feelin’ Kinda Patton.” His bits on topics including Black Angus Steakhouse, Stella D’Oro Breakfast Treats, Robert Evans and PAAS Easter Eggs made me laugh so hard my abdominal muscles were in real pain. It was then I decided Oswalt was firmly in my top five comedians ever, alongside the likes of George Carlin and Bill Hicks (the latter of whom Oswalt just released a tremendous essay about to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death.)
In the decade since, Oswalt has proven himself repeatedly as a true polymath: starring in great movies (“Big Fan,” “Young Adult”); appearing in hilarious TV shows (“Portlandia,” “Reno 911!”); performing voice-overs (“Ratatouille,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am”); releasing more fantastic stand-up albums (“Werewolves and Lollipops,” “My Weakness Is Strong”); and writing books (including several comic books, and the memoir “Zombie Spaceship Wasteland.”)
“I have a second memoir that’s going to come out either later this year, or early next year,” he told me. I only feel surer about my original decision. I’ve yet to be disappointed.