While watching the four-match taping of The Punchline, it was hard not to think of the kind of entertainment they enjoyed around the Fall of the Roman Empire. Here were eight comedians who had no business competing to run up a flight of stairs, boxing each other for $2000 and a spot opening for Russell Peters.
Comedians Rusty Dooley and Mike Faverman are the guys who conceived it, with Russell Peters jumping on board because he likes boxing and helping young comedians. It was a very Comedy Store Family type of event - Don Barris hosted with the lovely Maryjane, Frazer Smith was the Ring Announcer, commentary was provided by Tony Hinchcliffe and Rick Ingraham, the judges were Russell, Jeff Danis, Ryan O’Neill and Jason Rouse and nearly all the participants and corner crew came from the pool of comedians, employees and friends of the Store.
Note: If you stumble across this in the future once the show airs, here’s your fair warning that this is ONE GIANT SPOILER. For some fun, spoiler-free behind-the-scenes stuff, check out The Punchline: Behind The Scenes.
The first match pit Josh Martin against Boon Shok-a-lok-a (for the record, that is the official spelling, he corrected me numerous times when I used to run an open mic). Although this was the first match on the card, it was pretty heavily anticipated. Perhaps a little more info on the pugilists would help explain that.
John Martin recently became a Comedy Store employee after years of managing a McDonalds, he’s got a big lisp and an even bigger chip on his shoulder, so he was ready to go. Boon is a well-known character throughout Los Angeles comedy, showing up at open mics and The Store to sell (likely stolen) books for a dollar and collect cans and bottles for “rent money.” Boon is a mysterious guy and some have even speculated he’s leading a comfortable middle class life out in San Bernardino and this is all some kind of Kaufmenesque performance piece. Nobody knows Boon’s real age, but let’s just call it 60.
That said, Boon was favored to win the fight going in, but didn’t really come out swinging. He also took a couple of breaks. So many, that both the judges and the audience were confused what round we’d made it to. Boon put up a good fight for about half a round (I think in the second) and then threw in the towel, leaving Josh the winner.
The second match was JMac vs Ramsey Moore, dubbed the Overweight Division. There were some good punches thrown, but also a lot of circling, sizing up and catching of breath. At the end of three full rounds, the judges declared it a draw.
Everyone was also pretty excited about the third match - Abby Roberge vs Eric Oligny. This seems like the fight most likely to be an actual fight. Abbey’s a young comic who says he’s from Canada but looks like he could play that Russian mob guy who roughs up a witness on a police procedural and Oligny is a former military man with a known temper.
Sadly, the lack of air-conditioning, Burbank location, hot stage lights and reported numerous cans of soda consumed all day led Oligny to nearly pass out at the end of the first round due to dehydration. The Ring Doctor stepped in, checked him out and declared he couldn’t keep fighting, so bbey won by TKO.
Finally, we came to the Main Event - Davey Wester vs PJ Stansbury. Now, you, like many people in the room, may question the morality of allowing a man whose only handicap is being a scumbag from New Jersey fight a man with cerebral palsy. But Davey’s been training for three months, he recently beat up a man who tried to mug him, and I’ve even seen him compete in a road race, so my money was on him.
But PJ was more prepared than I expected. He landed a lot of body shots and did a good job avoiding some of Davey’s punches. In the end, the judges declared Davey the winner, which Davey called “bullshit!” and Russell extended the opening gig offer to both of them as if it had been a draw. I think more people were offended at the idea of giving Davey a soft win than the idea of PJ punching him in the head because Davey’s a grown man who entered the ring of his own decision, trained hard, is a touch sonuvabitch and has gotten into un-refereed scraps with PJ before. But this is for TV and I understand it might be hard to convey all that to the audience in 22 short minutes.