Review: Oddball Festival brings Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari and lots of riotous raunch to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre
Even if the stormy weather of the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival's inaugural Tampa installment didn't return, its second stop Saturday was a reminder that lightning can strike twice.
Last year’s lineup of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Hannibal Buress, Marc Maron and more seemed like lightning in a bottle (to continue that metaphor) for Tampa Bay comedy fans — a who's who of comics who rarely visit here, all performing in one place. And an even larger crowd of about 14,000 came out to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre this year, with a returning Ansari and Amy Schumer headlining.
It was a fitting pair of top-billed acts, with the two comics on similarly stratospheric career rises. Both gained popularity from appearances in Judd Apatow films (Trainwreck and Funny People) and TV shows (Inside Amy Schumer and Parks and Recreation.) Both played Madison Square Garden. Both landed multi-million dollar book deals.
Yet despite its star headliners, this year’s Oddball Fest was really a tribute to dark, dirty and depraved comics. The festival’s kickoff by Big Jay Oakerson, who emceed a local comedian stage with a set too filthy to reprint here in anything resembling full phrases, was representative of the whole show. It felt like someone took a night’s roster at the Comedy Cellar and gave them free reign to an amphitheatre.
And if returning host and Roastmaster General Jeff Ross seemed a little out of place in last year’s lineup of alt-comics, his act felt fully at home here. The first comic after him, Comedy Central roast writer Tony Hinchcliffe, spent most of his set talking about Jared from Subway and Bill Cosby.
Also on the bill was Anthony Jeselnik, whose acidic one-liners were a bit like Mitch Hedberg as channeled through the Devil. He configured a couple jokes with a Tampa-centric bent, like seeing a baby locked in a hot car while walking around here and throwing rocks at the window — which was open (“it was a great day.”)
It was also a big night for musical comedy. While Reggie Watts’ looped a capella beatboxing was the closest the show got to music last year, Saturday featured both Australian pianist Tim Minchin and cabaret performer Bridget Everett in extended 20-minute sets.
Everett in particular was an explosive spectacle as the last act before an intermission, belting out tunes in a breast-baring outfit and burying audience members’ faces in her body. At one point, she said her dream was to play Madison Square Garden. With this kind of spectacle, it’s entirely possible she may someday join those ranks.
With Everett, Schumer and the very funny Nikki Glaser on the bill, Saturday also fixed one of last year’s few shortcomings: no women. (The trade-off seemed to be a less racially diverse slate of comics and crowd, which Ansari called the largest assortment of white people he’d seen.)
Yet Schumer also bemoaned short-sighted views of female performers during her set, like being asked “isn’t it an exciting time for women in Hollywood?” and being called a sex comic when a male comedian could pull his penis out on stage and be called “a thinker.”
That being said, it is an exciting time for Schumer, and that wasn’t lost on her as she talked about meeting celebrities like Bradley Cooper (who is dating Schumer, whether he knows it or not) and Hillary Clinton (who only drinks tequila if her friends force her.) She also hosts Saturday Night Live for the first time this week and asked if she could try out her monologue for the show, though it was likely over by the time she’d gotten to censor-unfriendly material like elaborate sex acts.
Ansari is also having a busy year with the release of his bestselling book Modern Romance and his upcoming Netflix series Master of None in November. He announced his mom and dad in the show will be played by his real-life parents, and started his set with a bit on continually, unintentionally eating pork and bacon in front of them in a bit that combined two familiar topics for him: food and family.
But Ansari’s standup has also become increasingly sociopolitical, and on Saturday he talked about Sandra Bland, the black woman who was arrested for a traffic violation and was found dead in her cell in an alleged suicide. It’s tough material to mine humor from, and the laughter noticeably subsided. But he found a way, and ended the festival with a bit on the time-tested comedy topic of sexual body fluids.
So in its second year here, Oddball Fest showed it wasn’t an onetime fluke and it still had new corners of comedy to explore. What could they add if, here’s hoping, the festival comes back here for a third year. Sketch? Improv? Comedy teams? Local comedy fans now a year to start compiling their wishlists.
-- Jimmy Geurts