By Liz Shannon Miller
My internet connection at home isn’t great, so I was lucky that I got an invite to watch “The Big Live Comedy Show,” the kickoff event for YouTube Comedy Week, live from the bleachers in a Culver City soundstage. With no buffering required, I got to see Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, The Lonely Island, Pete Holmes, Reggie Watts, Smosh, Shane Dawson, Toby Turner, Epic Meal Time, Rhett and Link, Hannibal Burress and countless others perform live for the studio audience. It was a pretty good time.
The “BLCS” (it’s a very long name for a show, okay?) focused primarily on live comedy, both musical and stand-up, over pre-taped bits, opening with Silverman and Rogen exploring the limits of what you can get away with in web video. While the energy in the room was low (possibly because the audience was not yet full) the opening was a great way to set up the fact that f-bombs and their like were in play, and the comedians invited represented an impressive mix of web video’s more edgy entertainers.
From the cheap seats, it was fun watching the stage crew scramble to clean up after each act — debris included candy, glass, pool cues and lobsters, because as the opening sequence established, there really were no limits to the show.
But while the big names were, you know, big names, it was pleasant to discover that the lineup also included relatively unknown talent. Stand-ups Jerrod Carmichael and John Dore had some great moments in their sets, for example, and SQWAK’s Tummy Talk killed. The continued life of YouTube will always depend on people coming up with stuff you’ve never seen before, and I had never before seen three men in tuxedos use their overweight friend as a percussion instrument. It was a highlight of the night.
YouTube and producing partner JASH are also to be applauded for not playing it safe with some of the lineup choices. The last time I saw Eric Andre on a live broadcast, he dropped trou and tucked — last night, all he did was talk about being high and sustain some self-inflicted bullet wounds, but there was still a high danger element there. (He’d originally planned to arrive on stage on a camel — not a lie, there was a camel in the parking lot outside the studio — but apparently that didn’t work out.)
Same with Tim and Eric, two of the strangest men working in comedy — though their Red Lobster bit actually really worked for me.
That said, while a taped sketch featuring Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and Ben Schwartz talking about movie ideas was funny, it was also clearly in service to promote the upcoming film “The Internship,” AKA “the movie about how great it is to work for Google.” And it was then followed up by Vaughn coming on stage for a few quick minutes of awkward patter about how “The Internship” is a movie that exists and we should all go watch it when it comes out in theaters. If you told me that Vaughn was only there because Google had a gun pointed at him and/or his family, I would not be surprised.
It wasn’t a technically flawless evening — there were some awkward missed cues, and a fun finale featuring ballet dancers and Ryan Phillippe became less fun when it just abruptly ended. (We knew the show was over when the music cut out and the after-party in the green room became audible.)
But the night ended with me feeling genuinely overwhelmed by the two full hours of comedy I’d just watched — an exhausting, but not unpleasant feeling. If YouTube’s goal is to prove that it can bring the funny this week, “BLCS” was the right way to kick things off.