On Tuesday nights the Laugh Factory is home to “The Kevin Nealon Show.” You know Nealon. He’s the SNL veteran who’s appeared in a number of Adam Sandler movies and TV shows like Weeds. His Laugh Factory show invites comedians to test their material before sitting down to chat with Nealon.
The “Kevin Nealon Show” I caught recently was a MADtv reunion. Though I’d never watched MADtv, I was eager to watch Nealon verbally spar with comedians after their numbers. You can imagine my surprise to find Nealon wasn’t even there.
Dom Irrera subbed, much to my disappointment. The disorganized show (the lineup changed constantly) kicked off with Johnny Sanchez, who used the opportunity to test new material. By new material, I mean material he hadn’t even memorized. He had to consult his notes throughout his performance and repeated the same joke three times, perhaps trying to perfect his delivery. After each joke he’d say, “This is all true.” Only Irrera laughed, reminding Sanchez later that the audience wouldn’t leave thinking, Ah, remember that comedian that wasn’t funny. What an honest man!
After Sanchez, Tom Green took the stage to tell some moderately funny but bitter jokes about his battle with testicular cancer—and his ex-wife Drew Barrymore. Jordan Peele followed, getting a few more laughs for singing his heart out about jazz and his mixed racial identity.
But the real star for me was Bobby Lee. While his co-stars jeered from the balcony above the stage, the rainbow-shirted Lee had the audience’s sides splitting. His impression of Korean pop girl-bands—Lee inflated his chest and shoved his booty out while singing “Cotton candy! Basketball!” —poked fun at how popular foreign pop songs are in English—despite making zero sense. His jokes about relationships rang true (“My girlfriend wakes me up in the middle of the night when she thinks she hears an intruder. The last thing I want to do is be awake while they kill me!”) but the best part about Lee’s performance was how expressive he was. He used his body and face in every joke, contorting them into awkward yet fitting expressions that gave his jokes a unique edge.
When Aries Spears took the stage for the next set I just tuned out. Lee had set the bar too high. Spears did, however, get a few laughs from a group of whooping middle-aged women who he said he appreciated for their “age.”
As the show came to a close I tried to wrap my head around Madtv’s 14-year run. Bobby Lee had appeared in the last eight seasons, but I’m not sure he alone could keep the show afloat. Who watched MADtv anyway? MADtv alum Jordan Peele told the crowd that the channel’s audience was made up of prisoners watching TV late at night. For once, I don’t think he was kidding.