A tapas dinner date can easily go one of two ways. The small-bite, multi-course Spanish style of eating can dazzle your senses with an array of flavors, or leave you feeling woefully underfed.
New comedy shows kind of run the same way. With the right recipe of talent and tempo, tears of laugher may stream down your face after every joke. But if the mix is off, the tears may well still come, but for an entirely different reason. Of course just like with any food that’s new to your palate, there’s only one way to find out if you’ll like it.
Beth Hoyt’s Tapas!, which debuted Sept. 18 at the Lyric-Hyperion Theater in Silver Lake, is a new stand-up showcase with a focus on the unexpected. Hoyt intends to make this “anything can happen” event a monthly experience. If the premier edition is any indication, audiences will definitely be coming back for another taste.
Hoyt opened the show with a promise that the audience would receive actual tapas. All she had to do was find a recipe that would please everyone in the audience. While searching, Hoyt and guitarist-comic Mike O’Gorman (Vice Principals) riffed on some of the weirder recipes in the cookbooks, including dishes like “Diet Coke Chicken;” which oddly enough uses regular Coca-Cola. Eventually, Hoyt decided to keep looking backstage and introduced the show’s first comic, Maria Bamford.
Bamford’s presence as the initial guest serves as a statement of purpose for the show. A local comedy legend whose semi-autobiographical Netflix series Lady Dynamite received critical acclaim, Bamford’s stand up often deals with heavy material, including her own mental health. However, she handles these matters with a touch of morbid whimsy. For instance, she mentioned how she recently saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that read “Truly Madly Deeply” in a “Santa Barbara” font, and that just once she’d like to see someone wearing that shirt while covered in the blood of a loved one.
Next up was Mike O’Brien, a former SNL writer and creator of the NBC sitcom A.P. Bio. O’Brien’s took a turn for the conceptual when he mentioned his dream of recording an hour long comedy album with no jokes, just applause; a parody of the “clapter” phenomenon. He invited the audience to help him test out the material for that concept. “I recently got married, [audience applause] and we’re having a baby [audience applause].” While a solid bit, it did go a little long, which was likely the point.
Following O’Brien’s set, Hoyt emerged back on stage wearing a beige toga, personifying hummus and telling cheesy hummus and dip themed puns. “Beth as Hummus” was not the only comedic character to take that stage that night, as the immediate next guest was “Incognegro the Magician.”
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, bandana and floppy top hat, Incognegro is actually a character created by Silicon Valley actor Chris Williams as a bizarre mash-up of gangster and magician tropes. Williams never broke character, threatening members of the audience for not appreciating his skills.
While several of the tricks were intentionally obvious, Williams/Incognegro astonished the crowd with a card trick finale. An audience member was asked to pick a card, and initially Incognegro misidentified the card. It seemed the character needed to devote more practice to his tricks, but as he prepared to leave the stage, he began to take off his jumpsuit and revealed an oversized version of the correct card attached to his undershirt.
Hoyt returned for a brief host segment riffing on an incredibly long recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s ironically named cook book It’s All Easy. Then Lizzy Cooperman (Not Safe with Nikki Glaser, Corporate) emerged on stage, armed with an electric piano. The instrument is a key part of Cooperman’s hilariously demented set; using the keys to accentuate jokes.
The highpoint of Cooperman’s set was an extended riff on the Domino’s pizza tracker. As Cooperman walked us through the pizza tracker process (“Jose is making your pizza. Jose is driving with your pizza. Jose delivered your pizza. Jose goes home to sleep with his wife. Jose can’t see me hiding in the bushes.”), her voice got more severe with each new sentence. Darker and more atonal chords on the keyboard punctuated each new step in the pizza delivery/stalking process.
When Cooperman finished, Hoyt ran onstage with a tray of ”tapas” (actually shredded cabbage in cups) and immediately tripped, spilling the dish she had allegedly spent all evening making. Finally, Chris Fleming, the creator of the hit Youtube series Gayle, took the stage.
Fleming’ set began with tales of various freaks he’s known, like a guy in college who gave himself the nickname Crazy Pete. Fleming’s material quickly took a musical turn with an a capella song and dance about what it’s like to graduate from college with a theater degree and a STD that turns out to just be jock itch.
The evening closed with a music video from Fleming called “Sick Jan.” According to Fleming, Sick Jan was an H&R Block employee he once worked with who was constantly ill and seemed to have a desire to go to prison for tax fraud.
As of publication of this post, Tapas! still does not have firm follow-up date, but here’s hoping. For a $6 price tag, the comedic sampler at Tapas! provided a solid menu of talent, punch, and surprises. The only question now is, will it get an encore reservation?
You can follow @beth_hoyt on Instagram for the latest updates about the next Tapas! show.