Author: Ashlee Mason

Sarah Silverman

We Are Miracles

Sub Pop

Street: 09.23

Sarah Silverman =
The confident easiness of Janeane Garofalo +
The irreverent Chutzpah throne of Joan Rivers

There was an episode of Louie where Sarah Silverman alluded to her shtick in the ‘80s as being “Oh, gee … did that hot girl say something that dirty?” That probably was the truth at the time, but here we are, after her stints on Mr. Show, after her countless stand-up gigs, after her own hilarious (and sorely missed) sitcom on Comedy Central, and we all know the bottom line: When Silverman is on stage and spews the crassest shit on earth, it is comedy genius. When someone recalls showering with her mom as a kid, and mentions “’70s Jew bush,” bully to them.
–Ashlee Mason
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Andy Kaufman
Andy and His Grandmother
Drag City Records
Street: 07.16
Andy Kaufman = RARE B SIDES! + Jerky Boys
If this half-hour-long collection of random conversations that Dada song-and-dance comic Andy Kaufman recorded between ’77 and ’79 is the best anyone could do to drum up renewed interest in whether he faked his own death, then I guess no one really cares anymore. I mean, if Andy appeared out of nowhere and surprised me with lunch, I’d be like, “AHOY!”  But that’s not the case, and so we’re all stuck with these barely audible recordings chronicling him being a progressively meaner and meaner asshole to those close to him as time goes by.  I’m sure some basement-dwelling conspiracy theorists might appreciate these never-before-released tracks just as much as those schmucks that shit themselves when yet another posthumous 2Pac album hits the shelves, but in my view, there’s plenty of living comics and performance artists you can devote your time to, so do that.  Do just that. –Ashlee Mason
 

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John Tole
Reign in Laughs
Stand Up! Records
Street: 09.10
Tole = Futile attempt at the angry brilliance of Bill Burr + Bill Hicks – anything good about them at all
For a comic who calls himself the “Slayer of Comedy,” John Tole spends a paltry amount of his set discussing metal. I think I heard the word “GWAR” twice. The rest of the album is monopolized by run-of-the-mill dude-bro “A” material like talking about dicks, camel toe at yoga classes and the taste of jizz. While I hate to reduce his months-long work into rubble, I gotta say his material is just way too easy. Jabbing at your wife by talking with a prissy high-pitched lisp and singing praises about KY jelly is something heard at just about every amateur comedy night in this fair city. It’s all been done before, you know? There’s obviously a market out there for this shit (drunk people really do like to laugh at anything), but, if you listen to the album in its entirety, the funniest part is when Tole starts pandering as he realizes the audience is increasingly losing interest. –Ashlee Mason
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Sean Neves has made "a pretty good living selling people booze" in Salt Lake City, which he described as "a thirsty town." Neves has been involved over the years in creating zoning for distilleries operating in Salt Lake City.

Have you ever dropped to your knees in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City, looked up at the steely gray sky and cried, “Why are there no distilleries down here, goddammit?!” I did about once or twice a week until I sat down with Sean Neves, who walked me through the steps that he and his cocktail brethren have taken to make urban spirit production a reality for our local economy. One would think that Neves would be content with being a musician, DJ, real estate agent and award-winning mixologist extraordinaire, but behold, there’s more. In addition to being President of the Utah chapter of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild and part-owner of the soon-to-open bar Water Witch, Neves has also headed up the effort to change the zoning laws within the city to include distilleries as a real-deal, by-god addition to our city’s ever-burgeoning drinking culture.

The short of it is, in 2012, three of the best progressive cocktail artists in Utah, Neves, bartender of the now-closed Wild Grape Bistro; Matt Pfohl, beverage manager of Pallet; and Scott Gardner, then the mixologist at Finca, were invited by SLC Foodie to teach a class about cocktails and techniques together way up high in the Avenues. As they got acquainted professionally, they realized that they shared common passions and interests in the Salt Lake bartending industry, so they decided to get a drink with each other and spitball ideas. In the spring of 2013, they dropped most of what they were doing and formed the bartending supergroup named Church and State.

Neves says, “We started this thing to run multiple future bars, open a distillery, do booze consulting and education, and also do badass, off-site, gonzo bartending.” The group found themselves unexpectedly busy shaking craft cocktails for corporate clients and friends, ranging from bar and Airbnb events up at Sundance to full-scale, days-long events like SXSW in Austin, Texas. Their next step would be to open a bar, but alas, who knew a no-strings attached business incubator would open Downtown and name itself Church & State in 2014?

Sean Neves has worked over the years to establish zoning for distilleries in Salt Lake City. He and his partners plan to open their bar, Water Witch, at the end of November. Photo: rachelmolenda.com
Sean Neves has worked over the years to establish zoning for distilleries in Salt Lake City. He and his partners plan to open their bar, Water Witch, at the end of November. Photo: rachelmolenda.com

“For a while, we joked we were the ‘Artists Formerly Known as Church and State,’” says Neves. Eventually, the mixology trifecta changed the name of their forthcoming bar to Water Witch. “Water Witch” is the name of one of the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club’s finest old crafts, and off they sailed to find a good location and liquor license. Ever aware of the importance of location, Neves employed his real-estate background by scouting dozens of spots, even undergoing contract negotiations for four of them. Finally, the ambitiously energy-efficient and 100-percent locally sourced Central 9th Market project caught wind of this talented partnership, and now, the owners of Water Witch are waiting for the paint to dry at 153 W. 900 S. The doors open later this year, and all the subjects of the Salt Lake fine cocktail world are rejoicing! The end.

Oh wait, there’s more. Rewind to the part of Neves’ mission statement where he spoke about wanting to open a distillery, then rewind even further to a freak barbecue encounter in August 2013 between Neves and then-city councilman Kyle LaMalfa. What started as a quick handshake and conversation led to Neves mentioning his desire to open a distillery in the Downtown area. LaMalfa suggested they set a meeting to sit down in September with two lead city planners to talk about the different aspects and impacts of adding distilleries to the General Commercial (or CG) zone in Salt Lake City. “Mr. Lamalfa sponsored the petition, and it was approved by the Council in November of 2013,” Neves says. Zoning stuff is complicated and boring, but essentially, there are two things to note here: One, it pays off to actually mingle at a barbecue in this small town because maybe a person you meet will steer you in the direction of fulfilling your hopes and dreams by drawing you into the sexy netherworld of Land Use Tables and local politics. Secondly, a change in zoning within the Transit Station Area could potentially mean Salt Lakers hopping on and off TRAX and touring the latest and greatest distillery without having to get behind the wheel. Safety bonus!

A mustachioed gentleman by the name of Derek Kitchen (current Councilman of District 4) was in attendance for the initial meeting. “Derek was kind enough to call for a meeting with planning staff to discuss this issue and to discuss the possibility of adding distilleries to other zones,” says Neves. “I had already been in contact with staff about the TSA [Transit Station Area] changes, but this was our first formal meeting.” Neves went on to explain that “Derek is spearheading some significant, needed changes to the TSA zone, and one of the recommended changes was to enact a land-use table type of zoning, where ‘wanted’ uses are permitted by code rather than ‘unwanted’ uses being disallowed, which is how the code currently reads. I am currently working on distilleries being permitted as a ‘wanted’ use in the TSA zones.”

If the changes are made, this means that Neves, Pfohl and Gardner might not be celebrating just the opening of Water Witch. They aim to open a Downtown distillery called Congregation Spirits. Fingers crossed! The trio has met surprisingly little resistance to the zoning changes from our conservative legislature, and the issue will have been put up to a vote before you read this, so hopefully we’ll have a nice, boozy future to look forward to.

Photo: Russel Daniels

“It’s a thing you develop as a kid for whatever reason, and people compliment you throughout your whole life, but when people start asking you to be funny on demand, it goes away. It just disappears. You get self-conscious about it and don’t understand why,” Andy Farnsworth muses, eating grocery store sushi on a full-moon night. He signals to the window with his chopsticks. “I think the moon affects my ability to make words.” This might be true, considering we had spent a good part of a confusing hour talking about baby overlords.

Andy has been doing stand-up comedy since 2004. He began in Chicago, where he’d commute two and a half hours from Milwaukee to perform at open mics, but stopped abruptly. He says, “I wasn’t prepared for the footlights on the stage. I didn’t realize that would kick in my flight response. I had nothing but premises. It was a mess.” After moving to Salt Lake in 2009 to go to grad school, he picked it back up by performing at the now-relocated Mo’s Bar & Grill on Sunday nights. “I miss that place, man. I hated it at first, but now I’m really nostalgic for it,” Andy says pensively. “If you were at Mo’s, you were probably there to get better.”

Since his move to SLC, Andy has cemented himself as a glory boy on the comedy scene, earning respect and admiration from local veterans, and white-knuckled, voodoo-doll-kit-buying resentment from comics who just aren’t that good. His jokes are painfully autobiographical, always posing a direct challenge to what topics human beings consider normal to mention in public. Few subjects are taboo for Andy, and his brutal honesty about himself, coupled with his undisputable intelligence, results in a feeling that is close to enlightenment. You want to hear more. You don’t want him to leave the stage. You want the awkwardness of watching someone divulge their deepest secrets to NEVER GO AWAY.

In addition to being a stand-up comic, Andy is a writer and he teaches writing up at the U of U—composition/rhetoric and creative writing (a term he hates). When asked how teaching in front of students is different than performing in front of an audience, he sighs and says, “It’s not even remotely the same. It’s so weird! I’m figuring this out because I know they’re not the same, but when there’s silence [in the classroom] for a long period of time, I start throwing myself under the bus and say things the students shouldn’t really know about. … My job as a stand-up is to be as honest as I can, but I don’t necessarily feel that same freedom up there in front of students.”

Andy spent the summer of 2012 in L.A., performing at local clubs and contemplating what just about every comic wonders about in the middle of the night: DO I MOVE OUT HERE OR NOT?! He decided to head back to Salt Lake to finish school, but didn’t leave empty-handed. “One of the things I got to do in L.A. was go to this place called Rafa’s Lounge Art Gallery and do stand-up for what was called a ‘set list’ show. There were five or six comics there, and you went up, and you had these premises onstage. You were supposed to get up there and think in front of people, and that was really a spiritual experience for me. It just relieved the pressure for me … You’re going up with nothing. I found that very freeing.” Andy wanted to do a show here in SLC that granted comics the same opportunity. Since the idea is actually somebody else’s baby, he named the show just that: Somebody Else’s Baby—modeled after a setlist format tradition carried on by comics Troy Conrad and Paul Provenza.

“Each time, we feature a picture of a new baby on the screen. Sometimes I steal the pictures from the photography studio on South Temple, the giant babies with the hoods. I always like to picture this [show’s] future with a baby leader,” says Farnsworth. “So there’s kind of a magic to this show, like this baby is overseeing our show, I think. It’s just the beginning now, but I’d like to see it grow up and be somebody else’s teenager.”

The monthly show is wildly popular with the local comics. Andy thinks it’s probably because the improvisational spontaneity of the show not only allows stand-ups the freedom to go up onstage unarmed and challenge themselves, but also breaks up the mind-numbing monotony that open mic shows are notorious for. You can check out Somebody Else’s Baby at The Complex usually on Tuesdays every month. The next one is on Friday, Nov. 8 for $5 in advance and $8 at the door.  While you’re at it, be sure to check out his website (andyfarnsworth.net) and maybe check out his Twitter account (@andy_farnsworth) because that would be good. Also peep the Somebody Else’s Baby site (somebodyelsesbaby.com). Hell, check out Andy’s underwear drawer, filled with Baby Overlord by Hanes® in all colors! The idea here is to check this guy out because you’d be a goddamn lunatic not to.

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Hold on to your dicks, because Utah’s first-ever submissions-based comedy festival, SLC Comedy Carnivale, is happening from Sept. 17–21. Don’t be belligerent about it, because we’ve got you covered with details. SLUG had the opportunity to sit down with the Carnivale’s co-organizer, Christopher Stephenson, to talk about the biggest comedy event of the year.

SLUG: Tell us all about your, and co-founders Ben Fuller’s and Andrew Jensen’s background in comedy.
Stephenson: I met Andrew a long time ago, when I was 19 at an open mic. He was doing improv, and I was strictly doing stand-up at the time. They wanted to do sketches, so I agreed to do some films with them. I met Ben Fuller when he was dabbling in stand-up, but also when he figured out he’s more of a fan and supporter of comedy than a performer. He had some good connections with The Complex, where he could get people together in a good venue to drink and do local comedy.

SLUG: How did you come together to put on this festival?
Stephenson: For the last year and a half, we’ve wanted to do something bigger in Salt Lake than the smaller bar gigs we generally do. There’s not a big launch pad out here, not a place you can really put your name out. When you go out there on the road, and only have one night to do a show, it’s incredibly hard to network. We all decided to do a festival run by comedians for comedians, so comedians show up and are treated like comedians.

SLUG: What’s the schedule of events?
Stephenson: We have 14 different shows, 34 different acts at seven separate venues. There will be a big bar crawl on Tuesday night to kick off the festival, where many of the comics from out of town will be getting to know everyone and do 10-minute sets after every round of drinks or so. Wednesday will be stand-up at The Complex. I’m really excited about Thursday night because we’ll be performing improv at the new Sugar Space, an outdoor venue in the River District. On Friday, we’re going to have big headliners perform at The Complex. On Saturday, we’re going to be showcasing all the film entries at Brewvies. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the MS Society of Utah.

SLUG: Which acts are you excited about?
Stephenson: Former Salt Laker Barbara Gray and her podcast cohorts of Lady to Lady will be headliners on Friday. They’re a big deal out in L.A., where they just got the nod to perform on Comedy Central’s stage in front of the studio moguls. I’m also really excited about Whitney Street, Matt Knudsen and Boston-turned-L.A. woman Laura Crawford. People told me to have high expectations about Laura, and her submission blew me the hell away. Lots of good local comics will be performing, and we also have a very special secret headliner that I can’t tell you about yet, but I cannot wait to see him perform!

SLUG: What sets the Carnivale apart from other local comedy festivals?
Stephenson: Besides this being the first submission-based festival, we wanted to throw a show where we can tell the comics that they can do whatever they want to do onstage. I just love that freedom to be able to tell performers that. We set the age limit to be 21 and older so comics can be however dark and dirty as they want.

SLUG: What criteria did you use for the selection process when you were going through submissions?
Stephenson: It was really hard because there were so many people that turned in good material. Colin Quinn once said it’s unfair to judge comics based solely off of one submission video because it really isn’t a barometer on how good of a performer they are. We asked for one video submission that the comics particularly like, and also left space open at the end of the submission form for anything that the comics really wanted us to see, including résumés, mini-bios and reasons why they do comedy. It was great that we all had completely different tastes, so a lot of different comics made the cut. Surprisingly, not very many local comics submitted.

SLUG: What do you hope to accomplish with this festival as far as the Salt Lake comedy scene goes?
Stephenson: Aside from networking and putting on a show that doesn’t have strict boundaries, we are just really excited to see serious out-of-town comedians come here more often, whether it’s just an airport layover or a stop through a road tour. I’d love to help give the local talent a chance to put their names out there through networking. I hope this event really launches those things. Historically, this is the largest comedy festival that Utah has ever seen. That’s a big deal to me.

That should be a big deal to all the people in the land who held their dicks in anticipation for this festival to finally come. Everyone can resume being belligerent once they check out SLC Comedy Carnivale at slccomedycarnivale.wordpress.com.

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Photo: John Barkiple

Although SLUG’s Legal Department is fidgeting nervously inside a closet somewhere while the Columbia Journalism Review concludes its investigation into SLUG’s article in the March 2015 Issue on the updated parking/bike lane situation on 300 South, the magazine is boldly pressing forward with further coverage of #WeirdBikeLaneGate with a smoking-hot, exclusive lead (read: we Googled stuff that was already out there). The City has obviously been seduced by cyclists’ gorgeous helmet hair because it will continue its firm steps in creating a bike-friendly utopia by inserting the second phase of the protective bike lanes between the sidewalk and parking spaces all over 200 West, ranging from 100 South to 800 South. Yes, that 200 West, known to residents as Liquor Store Alley, and yes, those bike lanes some drivers were griping about the last time.

When asked about continued efforts to confuse and disorient Utah’s already terrible street parkers with bike lanes circumscribed by concrete barriers and in between the sidewalk and green-painted hopscotch boards filled with perilous blind spots for auto parking, urban planner Ned Maloof, in his ever-upbeat manner, says, “This is gonna be great—great for our bike-share program, great for exercise, great for the environment! You know, it may be difficult to imagine a future winter in Salt Lake City without the inversion gunk clogging up our lungs, but dreams can come true … because they must.”

Drivers who were already irked by the 300 South and 300 East bike lanes cutting down on overall parking spots in the Downtown area are decidedly less than thrilled about the new plans for 200 West. Like a phoenix from the ashes, motorists between the ages of 45 and 1,000 have already sprung out of their Price is Right comas and have taken to the streets in riotous protest against the new bike lanes. Many cyclists have expressed utter confusion as to why frothing, belligerent strangers with beet-red complexions have been screaming obscenities at them from inside parked vehicles. When asked about protesting motorists’ main rationale, accountant and suburban dad Wesley Blongatt says, “All roads should exclusively belong to vehicles that chug and fart out fossil fuels faster, and in greater quantity, than bros chugging jungle juice at a fraternity chili cook-off.”

Amid the makeshift broken antenna war swords and gasoline-fueled angry-mob torches, crudely sketched posters that read “OFF MY ROAD,” “BI-SUCKLES BE GONE” and “MY PENIS, MY CHOICE” (one anti-circumcision advocate didn’t know which protest he was attending) clearly illustrate the growing and unfounded resentment car drivers harbor against the cyclists rather than against the City itself. At the front lines of the demonstration against the 200 West lanes, Blongatt shouted through his megaphone, “Swerving between the wide lanes on 200 West allows me to exercise my individual rights, something, something, Jazz games, something, something, our Constitution!” Supporting motorists were moved to tears.

In an unparalleled Freaky Friday twist that no one anticipated, local hip business owners have joined the rally in solidarity with the motorists, not because they feel one way or the other about cars, but because the lanes have been costing them MONAY. As 300 South merchants have learned, accessing shops across these new interposing bike lanes from the street is akin to crossing a bridge with an evil troll hurling rocks at you from beneath, and they’ve grown a little raw about the situation. “We are changing a few things this time around, I think,” lawmaker Patty Nugella explained from beneath her office desk (she scares easily in interviews). “We actually listened to business owners’ concerns, so I’m hoping no one yells at me again.”

In true angry-grandma fashion, Mayor Rosalee Kirkpatmore threw up her hands in response to the uproar by screaming, “Santo Infierno, I’ve done so much for you ingrates, and you still complain?! We chose 200 West because the street is wide as fuck, but apparently, trying to reason with people is like spitting in the wind, so I’m quitting this shit and moving down to St. George.”

We asked several cyclists for comment on the fracas, but all of them rolled their eyes, and said in unison, “Your March article was not funny.”

It might be too soon to tell whether the cyclists of the city will emerge victorious in one long, orgiastic procession spanning from near the U.S. Post Office between 100 South and 200 South all the way to Camelot Inn & Hostel near the intersection of 200 West and 800 South while the motorists rub their eyes in disbelief, wailing that the miscreant hipsters have done it again. However, we predict the motorists will eventually forget why they felt scandalized by being forced to live in a cleaner society in the first place (especially when gas prices rise again), and will go back to enjoying being the sole benefactors of Taco Bell drive-through.

Photo: John Barkiple

In an effort to boost the local white paint economy and add a touch of je ne sais quoi to what would otherwise be just boring, unfashionable pavement, Salt Lake City officials recently unveiled a dazzling kaleidoscope of parking lanes along 300 South (and to a lesser but just as confusing extent, 300 East).

After years of ignoring the ever-growing inversion problem that’s plagued the city and listening to bicyclists blab on and on about not getting to bike really fast from Jed’s Barbershop to Pioneer Park, city planners took firm steps in creating a bike-friendly utopia by inserting bike lanes between the sidewalk and parking spaces throughout the bustling antique shop and sandwich district.

Back when the project began, urban planner Ned Maloof was very optimistic. He says, “I like to think we’re adding a little zig-zag fun to Broadway. We’re going to throw up concrete barriers and draw Union Jacks all over the street to assist all commuters, not just the cyclists. We’re even going to put up cute, little signs to show motorists where to park, which is good because you don’t want all those attempts at parallel parking to be in vain. Plus, if I do say so myself, it won’t be long before we can confidently tell Portland to SUCK IT.”

Once everything was in place, things were looking rosy and not controversial at all, until tragedy struck.

Brent Chalmerton (37) formerly known to locals as “Bike Mike,” gave off a resigned, all-is-lost vibe while recounting a recent incident where he was nearly clipped by a Minivan attempting to turn into a parking lot east of Valter’s. “I never saw him coming,” he says, shaking. Chalmerton had considered cycling as a central focus of his life, but when a car nearly took it, his thoughts turned dark. “I used to be a food-delivery boy, but now that dream is gone,” he says. “I sold my one-speed for a couple bucks, and now I’m pushing paper for a soulless corporation on the south side. I’m ‘Bike Mike’ no more.”

While Chalmerton’s turn for the worse has been heartbreaking for the community, he hasn’t been the only human impacted by the change. After the city did away with diagonal parking in favor of parallel spots, drivers have learned there are a lot more driveways and fire hydrants lining 300 South than originally suspected. With the street’s parking spaces having been reduced by nearly a third, throngs of non-Downtowners have been forced to resort to parking inside abandoned shops at the Gateway Mall—a place where alligators live.

Walking a few extra blocks east from the Japanese Church of Christ, the city center has increased drivers’ general sense of grouchiness and has brought forth all kinds of misplaced shade against hapless cyclists. “Muscly-legged, nature-humping low-lifes,” says overweight motorist Eric Farnswood, shortly before drunkenly speeding off from a bar in his truck.

Despite the cloud hanging over the Downtown area, citizens have managed to cope with the reality of the new parking spots. However, they demand answers. When asked who the fuck thought it’d be a good idea to put the bike lane in between the sidewalk and a hopscotch board filled with perilous blind spots in an already traffic-clogged stretch of the city, lawmaker Patty Nugella shifted around in her seat uncomfortably before commenting, “I think … I left the oven on …”

Salt Lake City Mayor Rosalee Kirkpatmore has taken a more forward approach in addressing the cyclist/motorist kerfuffle surrounding 300 South. At a recent City Hall meeting, she went into abuelita mode, saying, “You know, I’ve been in the city planning-game a long time. Mapping out parking spaces isn’t easy, and if there’s one thing I know about you people, it’s that you’re never happy no matter what we do. Cyclists, no matter how much you tell us otherwise, you’re not goddamn cars, so don’t bike so fast down the lanes, and you’ll probably be OK. Motorists, just because you can afford car payments and gas doesn’t mean you’re shit don’t stink. Put down your phone, pay attention to other people around you, and for chrissakes, remember that parking a couple of blocks away from your destination can be looked at as exercise.”

After the meeting concluded, no one came up with a witty retort to the Mayor until they hit the stairwell, so it appears the controversy has simmered somewhat. However, it remains unclear whether cyclists will have any more excuses to ride on the sidewalks, and it’s doubly unclear—given the nearly snowless winter we’ve had this year—how much snowplow drivers will bitch slap each other over who won’t have to plow 300 South.

Photo: Michael Portanda

After a friend and I CURSED THE HEAVENS for losing the last parking space in the lot by a millisecond, we walked an entire eighth of a block up to the entrance of Mo’s American Diner (1280 S. 300 W.). Passing through the threshold, we faced a packed room of people, one of whom was only wearing his tightie-whities and a powdered wig with a ladies’ mini-top hat pinned at a slant. The only seats that were left to sit down in were front and center, about six feet away from a microphone near the front door. This is something I incidentally hate … Mama said to never sit with your back to people and, by gum, I like to stick to that maxim.But whatever, let’s get to the guy in the underwear. Comic Jonny Brandin may want to consider me for his biographer someday, because I find him to be so. Damn. Fascinating. Hailing from Las Vegas, Brandin got his start performing puppet theater before, during and after local punk shows. That last sentence encapsulates what SLUG and our city’s art scene is all about, so let that soak in for a while. He moved to Salt Lake in 2005, and has been working the comedy circuit ever since. He worships Andy Kaufman, The Kids in the Hall and Upright Citizens Brigade, and likes to humbly remind people he doesn’t embarrass easily.Brandin’s what you’d call a prop comic, but before you start stringing the words “carrot” and “top” together and vomit in your mouth a little when images of a tan, permed redhead with hot-as-shit eyebrows pushing a broom around onstage begin to appear, know that Brandin is a completely different animal. He says, “I consider myself a Cosvestite: It’s like the stunted cousin of a transvestite or nondenominational cos-player. It’s all part of my plan to confuse people into laughing.” His out-of-this-world, awkward comedic timing is something to be relished, and his inscrutably strange one-liners set the tone for some great shows. He opened the underwear set with, “Eating a chick out on her period is a lot like eating a lot of slices of pizza at the same time. It seems like a good idea at the time, but then there’s this red sauce everywhere.”The stand-up scene has been in dire need for a new open-mic venue. The old Mo’s Bar & Grill closed down a few years back, and The Complex’s open-mic show petered out just this past year. When Mo’s was recently resurrected as Mo’s American Diner, Brandin jumped on the opportunity to get a show going again. Thanks to his fine ass and the wonderfully supportive staff of the restaurant, every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m., you can find local comics sweating over new material, with Brandin at the helm as host in his latest Zurchers regalia. He regularly picks themes and, tonight, it was comics performing in their underwear (LUCKY ME). Not everybody participated, but the brave souls that bared all that was legal get a gyrating hip-thrust from yours truly.

Mo’s is, hands down, the best small venue for stand-up comedy in Salt Lake. It’s an intimate joint that’s reminiscent of a New York Italian diner, with the checkered tablecloths and yellow lighting. It provides a perfect atmosphere for friends to get together and just laugh (with mozzarella sticks, no less!). My only criticism is that there’s no intermission. Yeah, yeah, I know that few open-mics have breaks, but with Mo’s, it’s more of a dining establishment than a bar, and there’s not a lot of moving around to do once you sit down. I guess I feel a little guilty getting up to order a drink or step out for a smoke. With the stage so close to the door, you get the depressing feeling some poor comic is going to notice when you walk away from their set.

Regardless of the lack of potty breaks and the giant wedgie I picked after exiting the pleather chair that I didn’t get out of for almost two hours (pretty sure if Mo’s were a gym, they would’ve been like, “Rip that trick’s membership card to PIECES” for not wiping my ass sweat off the equipment), I realized that Mo’s open-mic was the most fun I’ve had at a comedy show in a long time. I’m not big into open mics because they’re typically about as fun as watching a musician’s band practice: They can fucking suuuuuuckkkkk sometimes. But this open mic is different. Despite all the painful silence, vague racism and alarming Christopher Walken impressions that normally make me squirm within my soul, Brandin’s strong hosting skills and the warm atmosphere at Mo’s make everything feel just right, and this city needs that.

It’d be a disservice to everyone to not tell you that Brandin is one of the most unique and brilliant comics in Salt Lake. I’m relieved that it’s him at the helm of the Mo’s show, and it’d be a shame if you didn’t check out what he’s brewing in the local scene. When asked about future plans, Brandin peers out of his wig and says, “I’d like to tour a lot more. I’d also like to move my comedy in the direction of an avant-garde circus act with stand-up mixed in with it.” Just let me know when and where, pal.