Have you ever gotten really good news the very moment “Blame It on the Boogie” starts to play? That’s what happened after settling in at Bonnaroo’s comedy tent for the first show of the festival: Maria Bamford, Chris Gethard and Cristela Alonzo. Getting word of a campsite failure being rectified was a welcome respite from actually getting into the tent. Stuck in a line with strangers for hours, you hope to have a little good conversation and maybe make a friend, but instead are regaled with tales of $375 hula-hoops and racist jokes from University of Texas students.
The opener/quasi-MC of the afternoon was Alonzo, a comedian who pretty much won us over by immediately discussing her love of 16 and Pregnant. Fairly gregarious, she talked and joked about her identity as a Mexican, a Texan and a fat girl. My seatmate inside the tent was most excited about Gethard, which proved to be a wise choice. He started off with a bit about the doctor insulting is bulbous bowling-ball head while he was still partially in the birth canal, but later segued into an epic tale of falling off the drug wagon at last year’s Bonnaroo and going on a molly bender that pretty much changed his life, eventually culminating in getting the worst tattoo in the world.
Bamford throws her entire body into her set, sinking down to the ground and extending her legs like a child trying out gymnastics; she particularly does this when she uses her assortment of voices — radio DJs, children and scary women in the streets trying to frighten those children. She also provided one of our favorite quotes of life, we suppose: “I wish there was a way you could show people how much you love them in spite of all your words and actions.” Unfortunately, we had to split from Bamford’s set about halfway through thanks to additional festival obligations. Luckily a friend was still around, and mentioned that it got “really dark” as it went on. Our jotted notes from him include the words “mental institution” and “suicide?”
The second show we went to of the day was Mike Birbiglia and Michael Che. Straight up: Michael Che is going to be a Star. There wasn’t a dud in his entire set: from Australia being “white Jamaica” thanks to their good weed and sorta-English, to the deliciousness of birds and his hope of someday eating a penguin, the combination of a chicken and a fish. It was almost embarrassing that he was the opener. Birbiglia was perfectly good, but performed in a style that was like meandering storytelling with eventual payoff as opposed to Che’s JokesJokesJokesJokesJokes manner. Birbiglia told stories about his cats and Top Gun, and had to deal with an early-on stumble when he was informed by the audience that Mumford & Sons had canceled (“Well, I canceled my joke about them”) and a needless shout-out from an audience member for Ira Glass. Anyway, Michael Che. Deal with it.