“I don’t drink before shows, because I’m a professional.” - NS
It wasn’t something most of the people in attendance at the 1700 seat venue were expecting to hear, especially from the man whose platinum 2007 cd was titled “Party”. Nick Swardson’s body of work has backed up that claim, (at least the latter part,) and his August Eighth show at the Newport Yachting Center was no different.
Opening for Nick was Pete Giovine, who set a great tone for the show and was a fine example of professionalism himself. Pete’s set was done in front of hundreds of people walking into the tent and finding their seats. Pete came out with a lot of energy and a definite air of happiness in a situation that would have triggered a breakdown in a lot of the comics I’ve seen in the past two years. There was no crowd work, which is what I would have expected in that scenario. Pete Giovine stuck to his material, throwing in several local references that got big pops - which caused large groups of people to stop talking and watch to catch the next joke. I learned a lot from watching Pete handle that situation, pushing ego aside and doing the work can win a lot of people over. Once Pete started to announce Nick, the rest of the stragglers ran towards the tent and the place erupted in applause.
Nick Swardson walked on stage waving to the crowd, saying hello, then turning around and beginning to leave down the stairs. The applause had turned into laughter before he began his set, his reputation had the room on his side before he even began his act. You could feel the love in the room. The affluent and inebriated white people in the front row were splitting the seams in their top-siders, laughing at diarrhea jokes. This is one of the most beautiful things about comedy for me, the feeling of community you can have with complete strangers when you’re sharing a laugh. It may not last past the punchline, but it’s one of my favorite feelings. This same family might lock their lexus doors when they see my Chewbacca beard and my Walmart clothes, but at this comedy show we were all friends.
The downside to everyone being so “loosey-goosey”, is it can often lead to a rowdiness that can quickly derail the flow of a performer. Nick only directly engaged the crowd once, asking someone what they feared, to set up his next bit. When he talked about sports, the distinct sound of drunk-white-lady-voice, (every comedian knows this sound,) pierced through the laughter. There is a palpable “uh oh” feeling when someone yells during a show, but when there’s that much love in the room it’s probably easy to get everyone back on board. That’s just what Nick did when he quickly responded with “oh, Patriots…of course. I thought you yelled ‘Adrian!’ like from Rocky.” At exactly (by my count) 60 minutes, Nick Swardson thanked the crowd and went back down the stairs and out the back. Presumably to drink after the show, like a professional.
You can still catch Mike Birbiglia, Bill Cosby, Jim Jeffries and Amy Schumer at the Newport Yachting Center this summer. Joe and Diane Rocco have been putting on the Newport Comedy Series for 14 years, and from what I saw they really know what they’re doing. Go have a laugh, and maybe learn something while you’re at it. Tickets Available for all shows @ Newportcomedy.com*
*Click it for tickets!