HACKENSACK — The former Masonic Temple which was converted into the Hackensack Performing Arts Center late last year reached a new milestone last night, holding its first ever comedy showcase, which was a smashing success, if somewhat sacrilegious.
The opening act, Hackensack comedian Ryan Huban, worked the crowd smoothly for about five minutes, balancing his dual duties of loosening up the room and instructing the audience to turn off their phones, find their seats, etc. He showcased good material about a friend trying to stay single for a year by “dating” as many men as possible without being monogamous. Somehow, his was probably the most “clean” of the four performers’ sets.
Huban was followed by the Emcee, Alex English, whose manic energy and self-deprecation—a must for any successful comedian—won him several applause breaks. His best bit was on if American Health insurance was like Netflix, and all you needed to see a Doctor was your friends’ password. He brought up both of the headliners, starting with Daily Show contributor and accomplished radio show host Roy Wood Jr.
Wood did not shy away from controversy during his set, taking aim at subjects like the arrogance of McDonald’s marketing—[“they only sell the McRib seasonally, and then all they say is] ‘IT’S BACK’!”—the #MeToo movement, and The Shape of Water receiving zero criticism for romanticising beastiality. On the #MeToo movement, he lambasted Kevin Spacey’s ill-advised public relations strategy of coming out of the closet to (unsuccessfully) dodge the allegations against him. “I like the tension in the room right now,” said Wood. “If you’re about to get busted for a sex scandal, do what Bill Cosby did: go blind!”
Wood is a master of crowd work, and took his time delivering jokes, making his silences just as funny as his quick punchlines. His 40 minute set was simultaneously hilarious and poignant, as he noted that the only people who have time to march in days-long social issue protests are rich people not likely to be affected by the issues they are protesting. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was given on a Thursday! People had to get to work after.”
Wood also mocked the concept that any white person who didn’t see Black Panther is a racist, and that any single person needs a reclining bed.
Almost as if they had planned for their material to line up, Michelle Wolf continued where Wood’s set left off, on the #MeToo movement, and brought the same combination of humor and insight, only in a higher voice (she refers to her voice as being slightly higher than that of Dolphin calls.) “Men have been harassing women since the beginning of time. This is the BEST time for women in history,” said Wolf. “Men: all you have to do to avoid being accused of sexual harassment is: be hot!”
Wolf addressed the issues of being a single woman, straight men’s fear of being hit on by gay men, and the anonymous meanness that Twitter invites. She also let on about her fear of A.I. and political correctness. “If you help make robots, if you use them at all, you’re part of the problem. I hate robots, and I’m saying that now because in three years, people are going to be like ‘you can’t talk about robots like that, they’re people. You’re being very robophobic.’”
Wolf’s dry, smiling delivery won the entire crowd over, and keep them cackling throughout her 40 minute set. While she and Wood have not yet been booked for a second performance at HACPAC, there is no doubt that when they return, much of last night’s audience will be anxious to purchase tickets.
Roy Wood Jr.’s 2017 comedy special “Father Figure” is available on Comedy Central. Michelle Wolf’s latest comedy special “Nice Lady” premiered on HBO in December, and is available on HBO Go.