Will Ferrell took time out from being with his newborn son Saturday night to host “Make It Better,” a charity benefit for Pete Carroll’s A Better LA organization. Taking place in front of approximately 7,000 fans at the Nokia Theater at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles, the two hour plus event featured skits by Ferrell and good buddy John C. Reilly as well as stand up performances by Aubrey Plaza, “The Daily Show’s” Rob Riggle, Nick Knoll (filling for a tied up Nick Swardson), Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric, Demetri Martin and, to close out the night, Tenacious D (aka Jack Black and Kyle Glass).
Ferrell started out the night by performing a hilarious old school rap song (his words) with Reilly titled “Boats n’ Ho’s.” There isn’t much that can be repeated from the song in a family friendly outlet such as this, but needless to say, it gives The Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat” a run for its money. He and Reilly also had a very funny bit where they appeared in costumes as aliens from “Avatar” and were convinced the audience thought it looked “real” because they were wearing 3-D glasses. As for the stand ups, it was pretty much a mixed bag.
Why Plaza, who first gained national attention in “Funny People” and appears on NBC “Parks and Recreation,” continues to have a standup career is inexplicable. Her low key style was certainly a mismatch for the huge audience in front of her this night, but her material is neither that strong or, frankly, interesting. Moreover, my host for the night informed me she pretty much performed the exact same set at the Montreal Comedy Festival last summer. She might just want to stick to her TV gig.
Riggle worked the room pretty well with the sort of set that would kill on the college circuit. Lots of fart, sex and Guido jokes. It wasn’t necessarily unfunny, but certainly wasn’t memorable.
Much stronger was Nick Kroll best known for his work on FX’s “The League.” A very talented guy, he knocked the crowd out with a pretty smart bit on the difference between cats and dogs. Unfortunately, he was followed by the biggest misfire of the night: Tim and Eric.
Inviting the duo who are closer to performance art than stand up act to the benefit was a gutsy move by Ferrell, Unfortunately, it was a huge mistake. Appearing in body stockings with large, fake external appendages where their privates should be (you can get the picture), the Adult Swim partners sang a long song about….diarrhea (no joke). In fact, their entire bit was somehow tied to diarrhea as they showed two mock commercials with “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer and Corbin Bernsen thematically tied to it. To say they bombed was an understatement. A majority of the audience were Will Ferrell fans, a good third were hardcore Tenacious D fans and the rest were corporate contributors to the charity. This was not the sort of crowd that was going to embrace this sort of humor.
Luckily, Martin got the night back on track. It’s easy to forget how big Martin’s gotten since his Comedy Central show took off, because he still comes across as that really smart, but shy guy you know who is too smart for his own good (even when he’s making a funny).. While Martin’s observational humor can be hit or miss, it’s when he plays guitar and harmonica live that it really takes off. In fact, the number of jokes he went through while playing a pretty tune was very, very impressive. The man is a talent, it’s just a question if he’ll move beyond the short, comparative jokes as his career continues. Especially since he’s pretty close to mastering it now.
Closing out the show were the one and only Tenacious D. The rock comedy duo have finally reunited and are booking dates all through the spring and summer. And if you have a chance to see them live, don’t miss out. Black is an underrated singer and Glass is an underrated guitar player so combined they put on a two-man show that’s hard not to fall for. They sang favorites such as “The Road,” “F*** Her Gently” and “History” as well as a tease of a new song entitled “The Phoenix” (or something close to it) which mocked how their movie “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny” bombed at the box office. In person, however, Black and Glass have great comedic timing and their banter inbetween songs was almost funnier than all the stand ups before them. After watching, you’re also left with the question: When is someone in Hollywood finally going to cast Jack Black in a musical? Any musical? The dude can flat out sing. And as for the D, this is one writer who can’t want to see them live again (how about the Hollywood Bowl guys?).
The show ended with Ferrell, wearing a snuggie (really) turning around to show the audience…his bare ass. A memorable way to end a memorable night for a very good cause.
Now, if only the Nokia Theater wasn’t such a cheap dump. Well, that’s for another post…
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