When a performer successfully gets the audience to sing “all we want to do is eat your brains” in a zombie like trance, chances are it was a pretty good night for comedy.
In a truly collaborative performance at the Calvin Theater in Northampton, humorist John Hodgman and geek-songwriter Jonathan Coulton put on a hilarious combination of stand up and music.
Coulton kicked off the night with some of his signature songs that have garnered him internet fame, such as “Skullcrusher Mountain,” “Code Monkey” and “I Feel Fantastic,” all featuring signature catchy hooks and borderline insane lyrics.
But of course, the lyrics are the primary factor that have made Coulton into the successful performer he is today. While encompassing an impressively wide range of types of humor, it is difficult not to like the man’s quirkiness and originality.
Following the pattern of singing nonchalantly about ridiculous scenarios, Coulton also provided interesting modern cultural insight in his lyrics. “I Feel Fantastic,” for example, featured clever commentary on people using excessive prescription medications for the smallest of problems. “Code Monkey” is about how the modern workplace is a monotonous, brainwashing experience.
It is amazing that Coulton has managed to survive as a performer in today’s age without being signed to a major record label. But 50,000 Facebook likes and 90,000 Twitter followers say a lot about the shifting music industry today; if you build a decent following, you can make it big.
Hodgman followed Coulton’s opening songs with a rockstar-like entrance while donning a formal suit, energizing the audience instantly. And although his attire gave an impression of white-collar monotony, it became clear very quickly that Hodgman was far from the boring personality his outfit suggested.
His stand up material included talking about his early career, starring as “the PC guy” in the hugely successful commercials for Apple products that ran from 2006 to 2010. When the audience started to cheer for his achievement, Hodgman looked bewildered.
“I don’t want you to applaud commercials,” he said. “I thought this was Northampton.”
Knowing his heavily liberal audience, and taking into account the recently concluded election, a few Mitt Romney jokes were a must. According to Hodgman, they had a chance to “get rid of the monster early,” but instead elected him as the governor of Massachusetts.
What worked in Hodgman’s favor was how he kept Coulton onstage to serve as the rational guy to complement his own eccentric personality. This showed during a particularly hilarious bit where Hodgman brought out a couple of cheap wines he allegedly purchased from the local 7/11 convenience store.
He made Coulton taste them both in a disgusting looking concoction to prove a point about the quality of liquor corresponding to the taste. However, his plan backfired when Coulton used the audience to pressure him into drinking some himself.
The duo capped off the evening with a collaboration song “Resist The Tide,” about the impending end of the world on Dec. 21st, 2012. The “Ragnarok,” or the end of days, was actually one of the recurring themes of the night, and Hodgman offered some vital advice for people who want to survive it.
“Stock up on urine and mayonnaise,” he said. “Urine has many uses; you can use it as nitrogen for growing crops, you can drink it and you can use it to keep away predators. Mayonnaise on the other hand, is very handy at taking out urine stains… which you will need, trust me.”
Ayush Kumar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org