Metromix names James Adomian, Aziz Ansari, Josh Fadem & Charlyne Yi "Comedy Crushes of 2009"Metromix March 11, 2009
Comedy Crushes of 2009
by George Ducker, special to Metromix
Humorous humans who set our hearts aflutter
Los Angeles is in the midst of a comedic renaissance. Over the last four years, straight-up stand-up stalwarts like the Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store have ceded ground to the improv and sketch aesthetics embodied by L.A.'s own Groundlings and Chicago-style transplants like Second City, Improv Olympic and the proletariat-priced Upright Citizens Brigade. But in a city filled with the nation's class clowns, which comedians are the ones to watch? We present a few of our favorite L.A. funny people for your consideration.
Josh Fadem, a reedy, excitable Oklahoma transplant, really knows how to throw his weight around. His sketch "30 Minutes of Falling Down" features him doing precisely that: 30 minutes of a glasses-wearing Fadem upending his stick-figure body in every conceivable manner. "I don't do it too much, for obvious reasons," Fadem says.
He's currently on tour with the Whitest Kids U'Know, playing to sold-out audiences across the country. "They have this big following, so the opening slot is great," he says. "Like shooting fish in a barrel."
Fadem has become an onstage staple at the Upright Citizens Brigade, performing in his own monthly show, Exploring the Space. Again, the title describes the action. "I'll do different things with audience placement--keep them on their toes, expectations-wise," Fadem explains. "I'd like to reach the sketch-comedy equivalent of a Robert Altman movie, or a Jacques Tati movie, where there's lots of things going on, and you almost don't know what to look at."
James Adomian owns at least 20 different wigs and a cache of fake mustaches. At any given moment, he can be George W. Bush, Christopher Hitchens or an overenthusiastic globe salesman. In one online video, Adomian, dressed in a leather fringe jacket and bolo tie, lampoons a proposition-riddled campaign commercial for Native American gaming. In another, he does three and a half minutes of mock outtakes from the infamous Orson Welles commercial for Paul Masson wine. At one point, he whispers to the inert crab on his table: "You see, my friend, we've both been boiled alive."
But don't call Adomian an impersonator -- he's an impressionist. "The difference," he notes, "at least as far as I see it, is that impressions are more specifically comic. They involve less of a life commitment to one character." In person, Adomian is a fresh-faced anybody, like a pre-phone-booth Clark Kent. He pops up everywhere: at Steve Allen Theater's Tomorrow Show, at R Bar's standup night, at What's Up Tiger Lily Mondays. In a town full of triple-threat comics (sketch, improv and stand-up), Adomian has managed to take hold of an extra rung as the man who can morph into anyone at the drop of a hat -- or the flick of a mustache.
In Steve Martin's play "Picasso At the Lapin Agile," Albert Einstein describes his theory of an icebox laugh: "You don't laugh now, but an hour later, you're at home, standing in front of the ice box, and you laugh."
Cue the diminutive, irresistible Charlyne Yi. She sings. She dances. She ice-skates with her fingertips and aluminum foil. She does wordless man-on-the-street interviews. And she's made small but scene-stealing appearances in big-screen comedies like "Knocked Up" and "Semi-Pro." You have to be ready for anything.
Yi is well-known to audiences of both the UCB, where she has performed since it opened in 2005, and the Steve Allen Theater, where she's honed her more musical side. When we check in on her, she's busy making puppets. They're for some extra scenes she's getting ready to shoot for her film "Paper Heart," which played at Sundance in January and in which she plays the love interest to her real-life love interest, Michael Cera. "It's funny," she reminisces. "When I started out, I thought that stand-up was just a kind of fad from the '80s."
Aziz Ansari is a hard man to get on the phone--unless you're Kanye West. When Ansari named his winter comedy tour Glow in the Dark, Kanye and his lawyers were notified. But instead of seeking revenge, the Graduate took a shine to Ansari's stand-up routine, and the two became fast friends. It's the birth of the modern man-crush.
"It's pretty weird and amazing," says Ansari, who recently celebrated his birthday. Kanye's present? Del Taco. "I didn't even eat it," Ansari says. "I told him it was ridiculous that he got me a taco from Del Taco when there's so many better places in L.A."
Ansari's star is on the rise, thanks to his MTV sketch show Human Giant (which he co-created with UCB alums
Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel) and his rapid-fire stand-up routines. He appears next in this summer's Judd Apatow-helmed comedian film "Funny People" as Randy, a comedian who's a complete 180 from Ansari's usual self. "He's a pretty raunchy, pretty stupid guy who does a lot of filthy sex jokes," Ansari explains. "He dances around on stage a lot -- it's all very over-the-top."
He is also due to appear with Amy Poehler in the NBC's The Office spinoff, "Parks and Recreation," which will no doubt make him even more of a household name. Around town, Ansari can often be seen at Largo and the Improv. For the moment, he's busy shooting, but keep your eyes peeled at local joints like Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada and grub trucks like Taco Zone and Kogi. Ansari has made no secret of his love for all things taco: "I told Kanye that I'm going to have to take him out. He needs to know that there's more out there than Del Taco."