GIGGLE ALL THE WAY
For about a year now, Club Bart in funny Ferndale has been turning over its stage on Thursdays to the stand-up comedic talents popping up all over metro Detroit. Over the past couple of months, Comedy Night has become increasingly popular, packing the house and attracting the cream of the entertainment crop.
Produced by Todd Starks and organized and MC'd by the huge personality that is Jay Kim, open-mic night in the friendly and cozy atmosphere of Bart's is an intimate way to either try out your talent for tickling funny bones, or to be part of the supportive audience that's regularly treated to a host of local funny men and women.
In the holiday spirit, this past Thursday hosted "Jingle Giggle," a special night of top-notch stand-ups, with the cover charge waived in lieu of a toy donation to Toys for Tots (or just $3 for Scrooges). Jay Kim opened up with his loud and in-your-face humor, readying the crowd for just about anything — except, that is, for the first act, Keith Rodney.
Rodney's lack of humor or key in his musical performance would normally be excusable, as I admire anyone who has the guts to take a stab at performing. But by talking loudly throughout the remainder of the night, and thereby becoming a distracting nuisance during the other acts, he effectively ripped up his grace card.
The open mic-ers varied in talent, but it was fun just watching regular joes get up and try in front of a live audience the material you know they've been tormenting their families with for years. Headliner Mark Stills, already known in comedy venues throughout the United States, was a warm-hearted and quick-witted riot (but watch those gay jokes in Ferndale, Mark!).
Ferndalian Michael Nodolski's physical humor and impressions exhibit a natural knack for stand-up. However, beware of yelling out donations to charity when Nadolski solicits them; I had the surprising displeasure of receiving a lap dance for my generosity!
Oddly, the freshest and by far best comedian of the night was a first-timer known as The Big Guy. His genuine and intelligent perspective on everyday life really connected with the audience, making him the biggest hit of the evening. I know I'll be watching for future engagements.
ROCKIN' THE RAINBOW
The Rainbow Connection was the recipient of another bit of Christmas goodwill last weekend, as Planet 96.3's Johnny in the Morning hosted his Music for Money Marathon. Johnny, the charming Chris Zito, Katherine and Hadji were all on air from 5:30 a.m. until midnight on the 23rd, playing absolutely any song that a requester was willing to pay for, with all proceeds going to the Rainbow Connection. (The Rainbow Connection grants wishes for children who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.)
Last year's marathon brought in just under $30,000; a tough act to follow, you'd think. But this year's boasted more than $50,000! I'm guessing Kid Rock is largely responsible, as he offered large chunks of dough throughout the day, pairing up donations whenever someone bought a song by a Detroit band. Gotta love the Kid! He also bought a song for $1,000 — and, you ask, what song would Kid Rock pay a grand to hear? None other than Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band." Detroit is so full of great people. Sigh.
ONLY ON CHRISTMAS
On Christmas Day, I made a 7-11 run from Grandma's house, just over the freeway and through the woods (Huntington, that is), to homey Berkley. En route, on Kipling two blocks north of Catalpa, I screeched to a halt at the sight of "Leonfest," a 17-year tradition on this wacky, spirit-filled block.
There, gathered around a fire hydrant at the curb, were four beer-guzzling hunter-types, bedecked in all states of crazy dress — including pajamas, antlers, camouflage gear, boxer shorts, etc. — stoking a barbecue grill and munching from a table of hors d'oeuvres!
These festive maniacs were the last-call stragglers of the Leonfest, which draws about 25 neighbors each year, starting at noon on Christmas day. The event is complete with a trophy for the best-dressed. (The "trophy," I might add, is a necktie which once belonged to a now-cremated gentleman!)
Leonfesters "Wild" Bill Keefe, Ben Guthrie (former trophy winner), Jeff Carpenter and the mysterious "D" couldn't have been jollier as they welcomed me to join their merriment, offering Coors Light and ham rolls. It was all I could do to drag myself back to Granny's!
Next year, the Leonfesters are hoping for a blizzard; I guarantee they'll be out there. Make a point of driving down Kipling on Christmas Day 2000 to witness this unorthodox celebration of the season.
The Roostertail threw a pre-Y2K bash Sunday night, at which Steven Sowers was reported to have been refused cuts in line to gain entrance to the exclusive Blue Room! My, my, no scenester privileges here! And sadly, our beloved Lili, owner of the famed Lili's 21 in Hamtramck, has passed away. This leopard print-clad beauty will be sorely missed and mourned. Thanks for all the years, Lili.