The long setup to last night’s big joke started months ago when Wham City’s man in Kansas City — Joe Hammers — called the Baltimore avant-slacker comedy troupe into town to perform its big variety show at the Paragraph Gallery. Actually, the funniest thing about the Wham City Comedy Tour was that the end — the punch line — was set up from the very beginning: As Dan Deacon’s Wham City Tour bus lurched toward Kansas City at 50 mph, running on hot vegetable oil, Hammers was writing a sketch to be performed at the climax of the night.
The whole show before that sketch was all comedy: self-deprecating stand-up, sick one-liners, dark sketches, Internet glitches, mock movie trailers, hellish commercials, even the singing fool of 16th-century England. The troupe and its members are 12 comedy-savvy comics who performed nearly 20 bits — some lengthy, some brief, some hit, some miss — in two hours.
It opened with horse-headed suits traipsing to the X-Files theme, and an overdub of The Wizard of Oz that Dan Deacon calls “Cool Shoes,” a tepid warmup where Dorothy confuses the witch’s seeing ball as the head of classic Spider-Man villain, Mysterio.
Dan Deacon and Connor Kizer then finally appeared in the flesh as the Ram Ones, a band turned sketch of two policemen who hyper-improvise with truncated bits on the biblical imagery of the Matrix. They cut it whenever they please — landing a punch prematurely with a sweet, “Thank You,” nodding before any joke is actually delivered, making the miss as funny as the hit.
Next, Erin Gleeson spun a fine yarn about the time she shit Francis, the ringworm she provided a home for years. More solo comics followed: Peter O’ Connor told awful jokes, which were funny in a Hedbergian kind of way. Like, “I wrote this joke on the Internet … .” (That’s the joke) or “Why do women get paid less than men? Because they’re fat.” (Groans.) Then Ellie Beziat joked about nipples showing through leather and her favorite kind of sex: lazy, because it means she is about to break up and lose a lot of weight.
They sneaked sketches in as transitions: giant mice with giant cheese gave way to the infinite possibilities of the waiter scenario. There was one about a man who, made gay by the way the waiter asks for drink orders, fantasizes loudly about apocalyptic gay male sex with the waiter. Alan Resnick’s solo show postured as a self-help seminar on how to build your own avatar, so you can outlive your family and friends. (The actual book is sold at the merch table.) The model emerged from what looked like an actual program he wrote to get his avatar to tell jokes for him, but who could not help but describe how much he loves his wife.
After a seven-minute intermission came a three-Gallagher showdown, all about how Gallagher is painfully unfunny. The first row was allowed to wear a tarp.
More second-act stand-up: Ben O’ Brian got sincere about the time he tried marriage and woke the next morning covered in his own urine, and he even cleared a Hitler joke: “Did you know that if Hitler put his mustache on the bottom side of his lips, he would have been a bassist? I think we really dodged a bullet with that one.” Then a whole set from Adam Endres as an egg, telling “eggsclusively” egg “yokes” — just like that for about five minutes.
A couple of more sketches among the night’s hits: First, an intense lecture on the existential weight of exponential growth. The High-Life-pounding professor told us how it starts where it ends: with exponential growth, then paradigm shift, then a big band. He even got would-be students to shout out correct answers. The audience was learning. “Fuck you” and “good question,” the professor replied. Second: Dan Deacon’s return of the Long-Island lizard voice, threatening anonymous people on the phone with lists of impossible things he will shove up their ass and his power to convince whoever it is that Might Ducks 2 happened in real life.
Cut to climax: Dan Deacon comes out dressed as a king in moo-moo and introduces the sketch that Hammer wrote. The sketch: Five horse-headed suits are sitting around a table fumbling with plastic fruits and vegetables, while a king and a clown are cracking up. Then a shitkicking cowboy comes in and yelps about his lost horses, how we can’t believe his horses are here, because his horses can’t eat fruits and vegetables. Huge laughter continues onstage. You had to be there.