A night of Tax Relief Comedy files into the Kuumbwa.
The Kuumbwa Jazz Center is the most intimate and acoustically perfect room for comedy in Santa Cruz. Even with a small crowd the laughter percolates, and on Saturday, the moment was ideal for a thematic comedy event.
The premise of the show was Tax Relief Comedy and the opening comic and host was none other than the irascible Glenn Beck, played by Kurt Weitzmann. A soul of the Bay Area comedy scene, Weitzmann has spent decades honing his craft—bringing forth such notable classic ensemble pieces as The Hitler Roast and The Jesus Roast. Imitating one of the most deranged characters in the political media melee has its challenges: like, how do you outdo somebody who already is a parody of himself? But the small audience warmed up to Weitzmann’s shenanigans and he set the stage for the most spoofed bouffant in the biz.
Tea Party 2012 hopeful, Sarah Palin, played by comic Mari Esther Kaplan, was spot-on in appearance and mish-mash nonsense lingo. Kaplan got the crowd chuckling with her gun slinging, wild-eyed rush to appear as if she knew what she was talking about. If Palin actually makes it to the primaries, we will be thankful that comics like Kaplan have got their bead on the crosshair.
Next up, as himself, was a true original voice in a world of simulacra’s, the legendary Will Durst. Old school comedy means different things to different people. For me, it means comics that have some sustenance to their act, some roots in the world and an appreciation of the decades that go beyond Facebook and Charlie Sheen jokes (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Headliner Will Durst is cut from a different bolt of cloth than most comics, or humans. Durst is one of a withering gang of great comedians who are also social commentators—people like Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Will Rodgers, Mark Twain and the King of class clowns, George Carlin. Durst can spin tales of the behind-the-scenes-double dealings that go on in the two-party state like a card shark on a riverboat.
There are those comics (Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher) who are in the million watt spotlight of American media and who are comedian/commentators, but those guys have a mule team of writers behind them. Durst works alone, spending his days reading the newspapers and finding twists on the headlines. His shotgun approach to the show, including a Q&A with the audience, ping-ponged its way through such topics as giving huge tax breaks to the poor—“Give us the money, we’ll spend it! We’ll spend it on crazy things like food and rent”—to living in San Francisco—“In SF, Halloween is redundant”—to Sarah Palin, who he labeled “Caribou Barbie.”
Durst is one of the most approachable, no nonsense comics you can find. When asked, recently, if he had any advice for new comics he said, “I don’t know how to explain it. You hear all these clichés, you hear there’s a closet door in Utah that you uncover and discover a bunch of clues, you open the door and bathe in a bright white light and become a stand-up comic. It’s not like that, you just do it, keep doing it and try and find out who you are, who your voice is. That’s what’s going to last. The lines aren’t going to last. The character will last and the voice will come out of the character if you keep focusing on that and being true to yourself. The hoariest of the all the chestnuts, but it’s true. If you enjoy it, they will enjoy it. You have to make yourself laugh.”
You can find Will Durst writing for Huffington Post and at his website, willdurst.com