By Molly Dolan, Contributing Writer
Initially, audiences might be a bit wary and unsure of what to expect from “What’s Your Damage,” a comedy show hosted by the Grand Bar and Grill in Williamsburg. The restaurant’s website offers precious little information, and the title itself isn’t terribly specific. Still, it’s clearly a successful recipe — last Thursday’s show went from a sparsely populated dining hall to a cackling audience by the end of the show.
The night started off with hosts Sachi Ezura, the executive producer at Seriously TV and Halle Keifer, who currently writes for Vulture. Throughout the night, the two kept the crowd alive and amused by presenting stories of their own personal forms of “damage,” which included everything from masturbation to horrible Thanksgivings. Between every headlining comedian, they graced the stage with their humor and truly connected with the audience.
The first comedian of the night was Isaac Oliver. Reading an excerpt from his book “Intimacy Idiot,” Oliver told stories about his first experiences with masturbation that had the crowd laughing profusely. Although the excerpt from his book was funny, it would’ve been nice to see Oliver do more stand-up comedy as opposed to simply reading from his book. Still, his reading of his novel was entertaining and likely inspired audience members to purchase his novel.
Following Oliver was Jacqueline Novak, who skillfully joked about depression as her “damage” and discussed her novel, “How to Weep in Public.” An interesting aspect of Novak’s comedy was how she was able to draw on her own personal experiences and not have it bring her down. She was able to relate to the audience through her personal experiences and made light of a topic that’s often rather difficult to joke about.
Josh Johnson, a writer for “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” followed Novak’s set. He had the best set of the night, touching on personal topics such as living in Louisiana as a black man, with no company but for his uncle and the internet. His jokes seemed as though they were in direct conversation with the audience. Johnson left the audience dying of laughter and wanting more.
Last but not least was Ashley Brooke Roberts. Roberts is a writer for the comedic television show “National Geographic Explorer.” In her set, Roberts joked about what it means to be a woman right now and how aging has affected her. Her set was a great way to end the night and left the audience laughing. After her set, the hosts closed the night with a few jokes and remarks and then the audience was able to talk to the comedians after the show in the bar and dining room.
The connection between the audience and the comedians made the experience feel intimate and relaxed. Between the different acts, the comedians would talk to audience members and sit with them at their tables. Most of the audience members were clearly already acquainted with one or several of the comedians. The direct interactions between the audience and comedians made the show very local, funny and cozy with the sense of friendship in the room.
If you’re looking for a high-quality, laid-back comedy show, try to catch “What’s your Damage,” hosted by Ezura and Keiffer every month at the Grand Bar and Grill at 647 Grand St.
Email Molly Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org.