O’Brien’s Pub in Allston might rightly be described as a “joint.” It’s at the end of Harvard Ave, down where most people pass on their way to the Thruway, and the neighborhood is a jumble of hip boutiques, cheap eateries, and car rental shops. It’s a place you’d expect to hear college bands blasting indie rock against the stinging weather outside, or warming up with some more sensitive folk rock. At least that’s the feeling on a cold January night.
But the second Tuesday of every month, O’Brien’s belongs to The Rob Crean Show, a talk and variety show hosted by Rob Crean of the Anderson Comedy sketch troupe. It’s a laid back, late night show. The start time is listed as 9PM, but the show’s audience is more into fashionably late. So by the time Crean starts his monologue around 9:40, there are only a few bodies mingling, glancing occasionally at the TVs behind the bar to check on the Bruins score. The crowd really starts to grow after ten, and everyone is still there at midnight when things are winding down.
Crean is an amiable, self-deprecating host. His monologue is surprisingly traditional for a room full of hipsters, a survey of news about President Bush’s last press conference and the type of offbeat items (a man sells his daughter for meat and beer, a wedding ruined by locusts) that late night talk show hosts love crack wise on.
The monologue is interrupted by Ripps McCoxen (character comic Chris Coxen, who seems to be on every underground comedy show in Boston), a 2-by-4 toting workout maniac who is looking for the band that’s playing next month’s show. Crean is game, and fine with playing the straight man as McCoxen explains how his flexing arm (his “gun”) is often mistaken for Cape Cod.
Crean and Anderson Comedy have put together a satisfying mix of sketch and stand-up (this month’s there was a DJ between sets instead of the usual band, so any judgment on that element is deferred for another time). The women of Anderson comedy perform a monthly parody of “The View” called “The Vagenda” (again a surprisingly traditional approach to sketch parody), which allows them to be catty in character.
Crean also interviews the acts when they’re done, which is where the self-deprecation comes in. Which you can see in this clip with MC Mr. Napkins.
Rhode Island comic Tim Vargulish, a relative newbie, has a promising set of sarcastic geek comedy. Mike Dorval previewed his funny, personal one-man show, Death By Chocolate, which premieres next month at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (more on that in February). And MC Mr Napkins (also fast becoming a staple of any cool indie show in this town) hit his usual hip-hop homeruns, even if he stumbled once or twice (on raps about pneumonic devices, no less).
Anderson Comedy hosts several shows around town, including Gas, which is every Friday at Great Scott, just down the street from O’Brien’s on Harvard Ave (they’ll host a Flight of the Conchords premiere party this Friday). They are aiming to create a new scene for themselves and other like-minded comedians and musicians. Here are Rob Crean and Lucas Lewis of Anderson Comedy, explaining it in their own words: