Festival Supreme – the massive music and comedy festival curated by Tenacious D – returned to Los Angeles with a Halloween-themed vengeance this Saturday, effectively wiping the slate clean from last year’s first-year problems with a new venue, The Shrine Auditorium. Bathrooms were plentiful, the movement between stages was a breeze, and the stand-ups – last year relegated to a side-room that wasn’t nearly large enough for the draw – were featured in the venue’s thankfully air-conditioned main hall, giving everyone who performed there (on what they called the Phantom Stage) the feeling of being a theater-sized headliner. Highlights? Yeah, we’ve got those.
The Last Comic Standing judge asked for an audience member’s help with a bit about how it feels to be hit on before realizing he was gay – her initial, flirtatious plan thwarted rather hilariously.
Ronna & Beverly
The podcasting duo of doting, 50-something Jewish mothers (actually comics Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo) riffed on anal sex (they invented the slippery sex move “The Dog in the Bathtub”) and their “grandsons,” confusing newcomers but getting hearty laughs for their next-level commitment to the joke.
Formerly the frontman of LA cult favorites Possum/Dixon, Zabrecky’s spent the better part of the last decade as an oddball magician – at Festival Supreme, he performed closeup magic for a small crowd, wowing as he strutted on the small Circus of Death stage.
The Comedy Central favorite explained his position on being a gentleman – paraphrased, “If nothing happens on the second date, I’m fine with that. If after that, you don’t return my texts, phone calls, or IMs, it’s OVER. I’m not gonna stay with you if you literally won’t get in touch with me at all.”
This confident, hilarious plus-sized comic invited fans – including Peaches, who was up front in the GA section – to experience a massive, uh, motorboating, in between songs about oral sex and crowd-flashes.
The stoner stand-up’s got a special coming out that he didn’t want to ruin – so he spent his 15-minute set doing jokes from 2008, including the classic/creepy pickup line, “My dick just died. Mind if I bury it in your ass?” (He admitted it’s never worked.)
The Kyle Gass Band
Gass – dressed like a cherub – and his band of similarly-mythical musicians (bass-playing Santa) delivered a rock-filled set of similar-to-the-D material, with songs about girlfriends who are basically bros abetted by, uh, pan flute solos. More than once.
The Silicon Valley and Meltdown stand-up star seemed blown away by the size of the theater, attempting to evade/trick the spotlight operator – a tactic also employed by his co-star…
… who also demonstrated juggling skills, giving the audience a therapy-level revelation every time he dropped a ball (spoiler alert: He doesn’t think his mother loves him).
Bamford’s set may have been the strangest stand-up we saw at Festival Supreme — it felt like she spent her full 15 minutes (or 20? or 25? Even she didn’t seem to know how much time she had!) talking about mental illness. But it also felt both conversational and cathartic — both of which are ripe for laughs, even if some of them were of the uncomfortable variety.
To the uninitiated, the Protomen are an appealing, ADD-ish, over-the-top rock band. To the initiated, they’re an appealing, ADD-ish, over-the-top rock band … whose entire catalog is based on the ‘80s Nintendo game MegaMan. So, basically, everyone’s a winner.
One-third of a trio of comedy vets (Margaret Cho performed before him, and Janeane Garafalo emerged, triumphantly holding her AARP card and making us feel VERY old, immediately after), Macdonald was an unexpected highlight of the day. His matter-of-fact delivery on an extended riff about, of all things, autoerotic asphyxiation was uproarious, garnering him a deserved standing ovation.
Circus of Death
The massive Shrine entry hall was transformed into a “Circus of Death” for the event, which meant super-weird music (like this band, the ambient/noisey/cacophonous Jim Shaw’s Dried Dwarf), a controlled-by-the-audience puppet show of skulls, and a kids’ train to nowhere. It was weird and engaging all at once.
The Saturday Night Live vet/Portlandia star was as engaging live as he is on TV: He taught the crowd the specifics behind replicating accents (“Los Angeles, you’ve got to enunciate every consonant,” he said. “Portland has no accent.”) and demonstrated the moment when you’ve had exactly enough blues music, shuffling nearly off the stage to the recorded guitar histrionics of an unnamed bluesman.
Comedy Bang Bang
Scott Aukerman’s popular podcast was taped live at the Phantom Stage, with surprise guests Adam Scott, Lauren Lapkus (from Orange is the New Black), and Zach Galifianakis playing a game of “Would You Rather,” which somehow devolved into a discussion of whether or not there are female goblins. It was exactly as surreal as it sounds.
Electro-rock vet Peaches spent her set in one of two places: hidden behind a massive installation onstage wom-manning her DJ setup or atop it, posing amid a slew of laser-lights as the beat thumped beneath her.
Rowdy as ever, The D delivered a short acoustic set (“You know how long the Beatles played at Shea Stadium?” Jack Black asked the audience. “25 minutes!”) featuring some of their most beloved songs – “Dude (I Totally Miss You)” and “Friendship” among them – before blasting through a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and welcoming “Weird Al” Yankovic up for “Rock Is Dead”. The closer? A sing-along of “Fuck Her Gently”. Of course.
Cheech and Chong
Somehow, the legendary duo seem to still enjoy revisiting material older than most of the audience in attendance: After dedicating the set to legalizing marijuana (natch), they played through their most classic bits, with glowing smiles through even their over-done you-just-ate-the-acid moment from Up in Smoke.
Dethklok of Metalocaypse
Only in the YouTube era could a nearly unlistenable speed-metal band based on a purposefully unlistenable fictional band from an underground animated series headline a major festival, but here we are: Dethklok blasted through hyperspeed riffs and quadruple-time drums with the precision of any of the bands they’re parodying/homage-ing, playing in near-darkness as animation tracked in time behind them.
Probably the most anticipated half-hour of the day was the long-overdue reunion of the seminal ’90s sketch outfit The State, which mostly delivered on its promise to the cabal of fans who packed the Franken Stage to witness all of the original members doing … something. What it ended up being was sort of variety show: a rewrite of a classic sketch about two teenagers at home alone led to brief shout-outs to the most beloved characters’ from the show’s run (Doug; the dip-my-balls in it guy) before a slew of new sketches, including a typically-bizarre segment about baby cannibalism. Acting as bandleader for the mid-segment music? Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren, making the set even more nostalgia-drenched.