Weirdly, I think every time I go to the Laugh Factory, it's been for Fresh Faces. Though I guess that makes sense, given my love of watching comics who are growing and thriving more than big names. The setup is 8 comics, divided into "Vets" and "Newbies" so you can catch some really fresh young folks as well as more established guys. Then they pit the four in each group against each other in online voting. I'm still unclear exactly how the voting affects things - I mean, I know the winner gets to come back, but many of the runners up do, too. But it's a nice hook and I like anything that gets the audience interacting online.
The first time I went was months ago to see Justin Martindale, which gave me the pleasure of discovering Josh Macuga and Ben Begley. This week, I went because Mark Ellis was the host and Rick Ingraham was on the bill. Mark did a fantastic job, his charming nice-guy-with-a-hint-of-smarm crowd work plays well at the Laugh Factory, where the audience is practically sitting onstage. And, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed Rick's set, though I almost didn't recognize him with his new haircut. And my favorite new-to-me discoveries of the night were Lucas Dick, Josh Wolf, and TJ Miller.
I have seen Lucas do short sets here and there before and I didn't even realize until afterward that not only was this my first time seeing him do a longer set, but it was his first big show at the Laugh Factory! He did great. Good pacing, good material and a relatable demeanor that connected with the crowd immediately. In fact, he was so good, I wrote the note "strong start" and enjoyed the rest of the set so much I forgot to write anything else down. Bonus points because Ellis' introduction included his basketball credentials. Josh Wolf also did well with the crowd work and had a hilarious bit about eating too much of a special blueberry muffin.
And then there was TJ Miller. I literally had no idea what to expect, except for the weird coincidence of a comedian telling me how great he was earlier in the day. I definitely want to go see him again so I can tune in even better on his frequency. So, obviously, he was very funny but he was also very smart & sharp (and sharply dressed, I might add). He made a lot of connections, comparisons and references that revealed a quick mind without making the audience feel dumb (well, except for the drunk table in the corner who really ought to feel dumb). And I detected a dash of the Brody Stevens bravado and meta-humor from time to time. Bonus points for leaving in the largest limo that has ever existed on earth.