Where were you, who were you with and what were you smoking the first time you saw Robert Klein do his sidesplitting “I Can’t Stop My Leg” number? Depending on that third variable, you may not remember such logistical details anymore. But I’m betting that you’ll never forget the classic comedy routine in which Klein pricelessly skewered – in very few words indeed – the ubiquitous young suburban white guys of the 1960s and ’70s who desperately wanted to be old black bluesmen.
Of the first post-Lenny Bruce generation of hipster comics who wielded biting sociopolitical commentary to reduce their audiences to helplessly giggling masses of jelly, only the late, great George Carlin shares the loftiest heights of acclaim with Klein. The “Child of the ’50s” has always put on a great show, and if you’ve never seen him live, you’re going to get a chance close to home this weekend. Scoring Klein as its headliner this year is a sure sign that, at the tender age of three, the Woodstock Comedy Festival (WCF) has already established itself as an annual humorfest of formidable drawing power in the cutthroat world of professional buffoonery.
But Robert Klein’s keynote performance at the Bearsville Theater this Saturday night, September 19 – starting at 7:30 p.m. and with ticket prices ranging from $25 to $75 (order from www.bearsvilletheater.com) – is far from the only reason to bestir yourself and head to Woodstock anytime from September 18 to 20. For as little as ten bucks (with net profits of all ticket sales going to support domestic violence survivors through Family of Woodstock and fight human trafficking through the Polaris Project), you can catch a lively comedy-insider panel discussion on Saturday or a funny new movie or seven on Sunday.
The Festival kicks off on Friday, September 18 at 8 p.m. with “Laughingstock! A Night of Stand-up and Improv Comedy” at the Kleinert-James Art Center. Hosted by Jo Firestone, the show will feature live stand-up from Robert Dean, Brendan Eyre, Megan Gailey, Jeffrey Joseph, Cynthia Kaplan, Audrey Rapoport and Shane Torres, as well as a set from Gregory Joseph, the runner-up of WCF’s inaugural “New Faces of Comedy” competition. Tickets to Laughingstock! cost $20 and are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2233803.
On Saturday afternoon, panels at the Kleinert begin at 12:30 p.m. with a tribute to Joan Rivers featuring Woodstock’s Hester Mundis, a longtime writer for Rivers, along with producer Ed Berenhaus and comedian Audrey Rapoport. Order tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2233809. At 2 p.m., a panel on the subject of “Growing up Funny” features Patrick Carlin, brother of George, and Janna Ritz, daughter of Harry Ritz of the Ritz Brothers. Get tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2242451.
The final panel at 3:30 p.m., with professional comedians Megan Gailey, Robert Dean and Shane Torres plus Helene Angley, Grand Prizewinner of WCF’s “New Faces of Comedy” competition, will offer insights into “The Life of a Stand-up.” Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2245653, and cost $10 for each panel.
The cinematic portion of WCF unspools on Sunday, September 20 at Upstate Films Woodstock. Just about Famous, Jason Kovacsev and Matt Mamula’s documentary look inside the quirky world of celebrity impersonators, begins at 12:30 p.m. Come back at 3 p.m. for a program of comedic short films, followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers: All’s Fair (Todd Strauss-Schulson), The Gunfighter (Eric Kissack), Ike Interviews God (Eli Shapiro), Leonard in Slow Motion (Peter Livolsi), The Life and Death of Tommy Chaos and Stacey Danger (Michael Lukk Litwak) and My Date with Carmelo (Michael Stahl-David), plus the Grand Prizewinner of WTC’s inaugural “Funny Eye Award” competition: Trevor Williams’ silent Modern Dating. Tickets to each of the two screenings are available at the door for $10.
For more information and to view the full WCF 2015 schedule, visit ulsterpub.staging.wpenginecomedyfestival.org. You can also follow @WoodstockComedy on Twitter for updates.
Woodstock Comedy Festival, Friday-Sunday, September 18-20, various venues; ulsterpub.staging.wpenginecomedyfestival.org.