After months of meaning to, I finally caught Carolyn Castiglia’s free monthly stand-up series Splurge! at Happy Ending last friday, with my own personal Carolyn in tow.

And I must say I DO hope Castigilia’s way of producing gets to be the trend. If you’re like me (and shockingly I’ve found that most people are, at least on this subject), you’re of the opinion that, as a general proposition, the STAND-UP COMEDY EXPERIENCE SUCKS! Not just because of the COVER CHARGE, the TWO DRINK MINIMUM, the RUDE DOOR PEOPLE and WAIT-STAFF who make the customers (also known as the audience) feel like GARBAGE, and the OBNOXIOUS HOUSE MUSIC often played during the pre-show…but also because roughly 75-80% comedians REALLY, REALLY SUCK and they tire you out before they get to the good ones, who are sometimes, but not always the headliners.

Your correspondent saw SPLURGE! on one of these 95 degree dog days, the kind of day on which he can usually be relied upon to be cranky and prejudicial, and is yet STILL pleased to report that the show has precisely NONE of those hated drawbacks. Not only is the show FREE, not only does the mistress of ceremonies give away free candy and snacks, not only do none of the club employees get in your face, but Castiglia the Curator has impeccable taste and ALL of the comedians she books are some combination of brainy, edgy and really, genuinely funny, including herself. None of them are slouches. All of the folks in Friday’s line-up have decent TV and touring credits. They clearly come down to work SPLURGE! to try out new material. Some hits and some misses. And that’s cool. You know why? Because at the main comedy clubs in this town, MOST OF IT USUALLY FUCKIN’ MISSES! AM I RIGHT, PEOPLE? (Note: I am holding a metaphorical microphone out towards you for a response.) I’ll take talented artists taking some risks over a bill of freakin’ morons who’ve honed their 15 minutes of manure into perfect spheres of mediocrity like dung beetles any day of the week.

Anyway, Friday’s show featured, in this order:

* An opening act called SNAKES. These two nerdy white guys do comedy raps, and lord knows that’s been done to death, but they are clever at times, and at least didn’t make me want to hang myself, which, sadly, is NOT damning them with faint praise.

* Rob O’Reilly. I may have found him the funniest on the bill, and also the most disturbing, in a Ted Bundy kind of way. Good-looking, low-key, he looks like he rode to the gig on his skateboard. Some of his bits (e.g., an extended riff of American Indian expressions) are even endearingly corny. Women will no doubt be attracted to him, but his material suggests: for God’s sake,  STAY AWAY!

* Matt McCarthy. I recognized this dude right away from more than one tv commercial, and I also saw him get off at my stop once on the L train. Furthermore, he announced early in the set that he is from my home state of Rhode Island. So, frankly, there is very little he could have done wrong in his set from my perspective, except perhaps express his admiration for Buddy Cianci. His main routine concerned the official beverages of the 50 states. Who knew?

* Jena Friedman, like Sarah Silverman is young and pretty, thus takes us by surprise when she goes into dark territory like rape and holocaust tattoos. She clearly was reading her bits off a notebook, increasing the suspicion that she wrote her set on the way to the gig. But I’ve never minded that, it’s in a long Bohemian tradition.

* Sean Patton came in sweaty and late, but he still killed with many a bit, especially the one he built toward,  a bit of storytelling slapstick involving a tiny dead puppy and a retractable leash.

* Jen Kwok came last. She not only writes very funny songs, but actually has a terrific voice (which people who write funny songs usually don’t) . And Carolyn joined her on the closing number. Now that’s show biz!

For info on the next edition of Splurge!, go here.


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