not a lot of laughter, well some, at the comedy event of the year

By Sarah Kim

Are they responsible?
Jack Black and Kyle Gass, the two members of Tenacious D, rounded up an incredible group of performers, the best comedians in business today, for an all-star mega-event of laughter called Festival Supreme. When I first heard about “Festival Supreme” I was super excited to attend the greatest comedic event ever on the face of the earth. Demetri Martin, Sarah Silverman, and Patton Oswalt, all in one place. Supposedly Flight of the Conchords and Kristen Schaal were also supposed to be there, but I think they canceled or I made it up in my overeager mind or God wouldn’t allow that much greatness in one place. And yet the big dude was allowing Craig Robinson from The Office, the surrealist pop duo The Mighty Boosh, Eric Idle from Monty Python, weirdos Tim and Eric and offensive hand-puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to grace the heavenly “Festival Supreme” lineup. I wanted to see everything and I wanted my mind to be blown and my gut busted—from laughter. The tickets were costly (one million dollars and some change) and the journey would be far (500 pioneering miles down Highway 5), but I was hell-bent on going to the “Festival Supreme.” I booked a one-night stay at a questionable motel, drove down with my best friend and jabbered all the way about how awesome the “Festival Supreme” would be.

When we arrived, the line for getting into the event was crazy long and disorganized. Some people had already been waiting five hours. They were also risking their lives as the line snaked off into traffic for lack of anywhere to stand. New attendees created their own lines and waited for shorter periods. It didn’t make sense, but it was happening, which might as well have been the theme of the weekend at “Festival Supreme.” We made the ticket checkpoint pretty fast, flashed our IDs and got in with a quick bag check and no pat down, which is always nice whether you’re at an airport or the greatest comedy show event ever. When we finally got in, it felt like we had made it, but I might have asked made what?
The lines were depressing
I was already late to the first act I wanted to see, the cute, singing, girl team, Garfunkel and Oates. By the time we got inside, they had finished and gone. I knew that it had to get better and that I was going to have to be more strategic at the “Festival Supreme.” So here was the set up. There were three stages: the main stage, the Omega; the second stage, the Mighty Tent; and the third, Club Intimacy.

After missing Garfunkel and Oates, we quickly checked our schedules to see who we would try to see next. Three stages of acts going on simultaneously means having to choose—I guess that’s obvious. Still, it’s a constant process of elimination: the festival was proving more complex than enjoyable. I decided to move over to the Omega stage and catch Craig Robinson and his funky band, the Nasty Delicious, although this meant missing out on Nancy and Beth. I was already starting to feel that I was missing the entire festival and I had only just got there.

Very Recognizable
I recognized Craig Robinson from the popular TV show, The Office, but I didn’t know he had a band or even that he was a stand-up performer. He was also in the film, This Is the End, so he’s kind of a big star and it seemed like a safe choice. I was ready to start laughing, because, well, I hadn’t actually laughed yet at the “Festival Supreme.” His band warmed up the stage until Craig came out in a black, velvet tracksuit. The crowd went wild and applauded. I had a drink in my hand so I could only half applaud, which made me feel half with it. Robinson was good with the crowd getting everyone to sing along to familiar songs like, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” which was kind of funny in a gaggy way. In one song, he had the men sing to the ladies, “Take Yo Panties Off,” while the ladies sang back, “Make me Wanna.” He then ripped off his jacket to reveal a black t-shirt with the words, “Take Your Panties Off” in bright pink letters. It was the shirt he had worn in This is the End! Overall, Robinson delivered a great, funny, feel-good performance. I couldn’t wait to see what was next.

I split up with my friend and went to see Eric Idle and Fred Armisen. She wanted to see Neil Hamburger. That’s friendship for you. Between every set, there’s a half-hour break, the blank time, where you stand around looking for a good place to stand. I went to the middle stage, The Mighty Tent, where Eric Idle was on, but I got bored immediately. The sound system was weak and the place packed. The tent couldn’t hold everyone and so there were people blocking the way to the bathrooms. Now, that’s not funny. More important, Idle was only performing his songs. They’re good, iconic songs like, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” but I was expecting some jokes, a skit or some kind of routine. It was dispiriting to see an aged legend just singing, even if he was singing with an equally ancient Billy Idol. I left these tired Englishmen for Fred Armisen at the Omega stage.

Not a Rock Star!
The morning had started out with a cool fog and then suddenly the sun was out and bathed the next group of performers with a blazing light, which as we all know is good for comedy. First, the drummer walked out, next the bassist, followed by the guitarist and finally Fred Armisen He was almost unrecognizable with his new blonde hairstyle and aviator glasses. I was standing pretty close to the stage, a reward I felt I deserved for waiting so long. The band members were actually musicians from iconic bands. The drummer was from Blondie, the guitarist from the Sex Pistols and the bassist from Bow Wow Wow. Fred Armisen had been in bands too as an accomplished drummer. This was going to be a rock show.

This was not good. Already, “Festival Supreme” was becoming more like a music festival than a comedy festival. I wasn’t laughing at the music. Fred Armisen was being weird in a boring way. He was acting like he was British and singing a song that had to do with Margaret Thatcher. I could barely hear the lyrics, something you kind of need in order to enjoy a funny song. I should have felt more entertained, but I wasn’t. I left Armisen’s set early to go on to what I hoped would be some comedy. I joined back up with my friend. I guess I should give her a name, like Lucy or Ethel, but I’ll stick with friend. We headed back to the “Mighty Tent” at the “Festival Supreme.” We tried to get there early, but of course it was already filled up. I just knew that more people would show up and try to squeeze their way inside, brushing past me and filling the tent with bad vibes. Would there be a riot?

It's a fair question to ask at a comedy festival without proper restroom facilities

I decided to use the bathroom in the spare-ish time before Reggie Watts. Luckily, they were right next to the Mighty Tent. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be that difficult to go to and from an area a couple feet next to each other, but obviously the “Festival Supreme” organizers had not planned for an audience—ha. It’s just so hilarious when there’s extreme body rubbing against strangers. I became convinced that everyone was an asshole and I’m the only nice person. I’m surprised nobody got trampled and for the sake of narrative consistency I will tell you that I never made it to Club Intimacy, which considering the crowds was okay by me. By the way. that stage had three performers that I really wanted to see: Demetri Martin, Sarah Silverman, and Patton Oswalt. I missed out entirely and I was definitely not laughing about it.

I got back to The Mighty Tent just in time to watch Reggie Watts. He did his trademark beat boxing. It was entertaining. People came to see comic beat boxing and he delivered. We remained in The Mighty Tent out of fear that we would miss the grand namesake act of this stage, The Mighty Boosh. The Mighty Boosh are probably my favorite comedy group. They are British and surreal like Monty Python on Molly and bath salts. They put on bizarre costumes and sing silly songs, which I quite like. Julian Barrett plays Howard Moon and Noel Fielding plays Vince Noir and they are the main hosts/characters of the show. When they came out, in monks’ robes, the crowd went wild. They started chanting and droning and then Vince started singing a version of their, “Electro Boy,” which became, “Electro Monk” and it was marvelous.

Why couldn't they have all been like this?
Their act was put together from bits and pieces of their television and stage shows. It was exciting to see them perform live. They sang a song about a bird that was in two parts. Vince sang the first part, which sounded like a delicate, old creepy folk song and then Howard sang the second part, which sounded like aggressive prog rock. The two sections together were perfect counterpoints. Their performance was so well received that the audience chanted “Boosh” for what seemed like forever.

We moved away from The Mighty Tent and found a place where we could rest. It felt amazing to sit. At this point, my friend and I were so tired we watched the video screens of the various acts. That’s what we did for the remainder of the day—watched big TV outdoors. We saw the Gregory Brothers, a Youtube famous group, perform songs about various internet memes. I enjoyed their “Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky” song and when Jack Black joined them it got very grand and passionate.

Comedy, Jesus
Zach Galifianakis was going to perform in The Mighty Tent. We zoomed back to catch a glimpse of him. It was impossible to hear what he was saying as the sound system was failing again. I was so excited to see him that I was okay with standing on the outskirts of a circus tent, straining to hear Galifianakis perform. Suddenly, after only about 8 minutes in, he said he was done and left. We thought it was a joke. Then, the lights changed and we realized he was serious. I felt so disappointed and ripped off.

There were only a handful of acts left to see. We were accumulating more levels of disappointment and starting to feel exhausted. We couldn’t get into Club Intimacy, missed out on Sarah Silverman and Will Forte. Major bummer. So we went back to watching the big TV. Triumph, the insult comic dog was on. It had been a long time since I had seen Triumph on television and I wasn’t that excited. I didn’t think he was that funny. A rude and insulting hand puppet of a smoking Rottweiler had never made me laugh before. I was surprised by what happened next. Triumph called out all the things that had gone wrong in this festival and it was hilarious. I laughed a lot. Megan Mulally and Jack Black came on stage and encouraged him to be nicer to no avail. Triumph turned out to be one of the best acts of Festival Supreme. I had been angry and disappointed and Triumph took all that and transformed it into comic gold.
Our Savior
We watched a little of Adam Sandler’s performance, but immediately turned around and tried to ignore him and watch the Mr. Show Experience. It was hard. Sandler was so loud and all the screens, including the ones inside The Mighty Tent showed him on it. We couldn’t escape Adam Sandler! I had never seen the Mr. Show Experience, but my friend likes them and despite the distractions, she was enjoying them. Then they tried some audience participation and we had to get away and see the last act on our list, Tim and Eric.

We reclaimed our “seats”, the edges of the trash bins-a prime spot considering the lack of seating areas in the festival. Around us, other people had started sitting down on the ground. Tim and Eric came on. They were in ugly costumes with large hats and they were singing their “Sportz” song. A foot away from us was a mega Tim and Eric fan. Throughout their act she was screaming and jumping and cheering and calling them hot. This was more interesting to watch than them. They only performed their songs, which we had listened to in the car during the road trip. Again, I wasn’t that entertained by a strictly musical performance. We decided on leaving after this because we both can’t stand Tenacious D.It felt like a relief walking out of that cramped pier and back onto real land. A lot of people had been leaving before Tenacious D too.

This wasn't it, but it could have been
It was dark as we walked back towards our drab, bleach-smelling motel room. We were thoroughly exhausted. The comedy festival had been a mix of some entertainment and many disappointments. Later, I read in an article about Festival Supreme that The Lonely Island performed a few of their songs during Tenacious D’s set as their special surprise guests. I felt a little sad that I had missed them, but I still didn’t regret leaving when I did for the other reasons. The festival’s poor organization had greatly affected the viewing experience. Also, the performers themselves need to work on their live acts. People expect a little more than all too familiar, overly done songs and acts. I expected Festival Supreme to be one of the best shows that I would experience in my life, and it didn’t deliver. I don’t expect I’ll be going to another one next year. The incredible dream festival painted in our minds by Jack Black will yet remain a mythic fantasy.

A fantasy and a big disappointment

©The CCA Arts Review and Sarah Kim the 11th

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