Comedian Matt McCusker recently joked to local comedy site Witout.net that after losing in the finals of Helium Comedy Club’s “Philly’s Phunniest” contest a couple years back, his father asked him to think of family.
“After my initial defeat, my father brought me into our room of ancestors—the place where we keep marble busts of all of our male predecessors—and spoke to me about the importance of bringing glory to the house of McCusker. That was all I needed to see,” said McCusker, 28, who competed in Helium Comedy Club’s local take on Last Comic Standing again this summer—and won. (Full disclosure: PW’s Sheena Lester was among this year’s “Philly’s Phunniest” judges.)
And for his victory, he’s won more than his ancestors’ respect: Rather, he’s set to enjoy a $1,000 prize from the Sansom Street club.
PW asked the new local comedy king to rate the talent a Funny or Die’s second Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival on the Camden Waterfront this weekend, which promises more comedic talent than, really, anyone should be allowed to handle in one night. Among those slated to appear on the fest tour are Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, Reggie Watts, Whitney Cummings, Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick and Demetri Martin.
Not all the comics are set to show up at each date, though. Rather, its headliners, C.K. and Silverman, hit all 21 cities, joined by a new cast of characters in each spot. This weekend in Camden, the Oddball lineup includes Dave Attell, Hannibal Buress, DJ Trauma, Brent Morin and Chris D’Elia. That’s damn good company for McCusker.
“Louis C.K. is the name that pops up first to me,” he tells PW, “just because of the way he’s set the bar in terms of churning out new material.” He’s got a point: C.K. is known in the industry for putting together an entire new set every year, and through his touring, FX sitcom and merchandise, he’s become the fifth-highest grossing comedian in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
“That being said,” continues McCusker, “this year’s list of performers is out of control. Bill Burr, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman and Hannibal Burress are some of my other favorites. And the fact they will all be at the same place, with even more hilarious comedians, is almost too much to process.”
It was hard not to become a Funny or Die believer after last year’s inaugural edition of the website’s Oddball Fest brought none other than Dave Chappelle back into the spotlight, albeit briefly, at a show in which he followed New Zealand musical duo Flight of the Conchords. That night, last summer, was the best comedy show I’d ever been to, hands down.
(FYI, anyone heading to Camden for this should take the ferry or New Jersey Transit, because the parking garage next to the Susquehanna Bank Center is a nightmare. Unless you think sitting on the eighth level of a garage, in a car, behind hundreds of stoned teenagers, for an hour after the show, isn’t a nightmare. And if you don’t think that, you’re wrong.)
That said, there are downsides to a comedy festival—just as there are downsides to music festivals. For one, there’s a certain intimacy that comes with a being in a room with a performer, where time is a bit less of an option and the drinks are somewhat forced upon you. At Oddball, performers often have large, diverse portfolios of material and are not necessarily situated together based on the similarities of their jokes, or at least the subject matter.
Similar to last year, the ‘14 gathering will feature more than just a succession of rotating comedians under its main spotlight. Last year’s festival stage, set toward the back of the Center’s open social/merchandise space, featured a horde of formidable local talent.
Sat., Aug. 16. 5pm. $35-$79.75. Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., in Camden, NJ. 856.365.1300. oddballfest.com
Correction: Comedian Matt McCusker, who talked with PW about the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival, is not scheduled to perform there. PW regrets the error.
Calendar: March 25-April 1
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide