Tonight was a real treat, I got to see Fortune Feimster and Matteo Lane. Both amazing acts that were a treat to behold and left me holding my sides due to laughter.
The first show was at the Royal Theatre, the weather continues to confound today with threats of thunderstorms being held at bay by an unrelenting heat and a crystal blue sky made ominous by clouds just on the horizon. Despite the temperature fluctuating wildly from hot and damp to cold and blustery all in a matter of moments and the threat of thunderstorms (which I suspect I’ll find myself in tomorrow) we arrived at the Royal excited. I had seen Fortune on her special, NBC’s Last Comic Standing and The Mindy Project. This was my first opportunity to see her live.
Her opening act was Matteo Lane who I was also going to see later on. He did an amazingly fun and energetic set that warmed the audience and got them laughing. I’ll loop back to Matteo’s set in a moment as I saw him performing in his Matteo Lane presents: Streisand at the Bon Soir later in the evening and I’d like to discuss the two sets together.
Fortune’s presence is warm and inviting, she engages heavily with the audience creating a joyous and uplifting environment with tales of her childhood in North Carolina, scouting and a dress that my wife assures me every little girl of the era would be very familiar with. We in the audience were in stitches, they were immediately familiar with bits she shared from the past and snapped up her new material with equal pleasure. Working the crowd she was able to gently rib audience members about their jobs and relationships remaining friendly and inviting and never making the audience feel uncomfortable and even when hit with one of the more bizarre relationship “meet cutes” (a couple who’s mutual friend set them up because the one did a Victor Neuman impersonation and the other did a Katherine Young impersonation and the friend felt they were fated to be together) she took it in stride and came up with material in the moment. Sharp, witty and insightful. A joy to behold!
This is not my first time seeing Matteo, the first being a set on a bill with Nikki Glasser at the Comedy Cellar in New York. Watching him open for Fortune was a joy, his energy was high and he engaged the audience bringing the right feel to the moment to lift them up with a light and breezy conversational style that was at once observational and also confessional. The set before Fortune’s reminded me of his set at the Comedy Cellar, a fun and sharp stand-up set that was a blast to see.
As I arrived at the Comedy Bar, once again the atmosphere was different. The Royal was a buzzing festival crowd, this was a hard core comedy crowd. Many were there waiting for the Empire Comedy after show to start (which I wish I could have gone to but with a Harry Potter event and a tween to whom I have made commitments to attend with I instead am here, penning this missive, preparing to shout expecto patronus as strangers tomorrow). Again, the warm lighting and bass heavy beats created a clubby vibe in the lounge of the Comedy Bar. Moving into the Main Space though the world changed.
Thick beats of rap artists gave way to sultry jazz, a smoke machine created a light haze like that of a hundred cigarettes smoked by winsome noir heroes and heroines pondering the death they have seen and the sins they have hidden. A warm clarinet, a throaty trumpet and a sensual saxophone told tales of forlorn love and broken hearts all without words (and this was before the show even started)! Hats off to the lighting and sound engineers at The Comedy Bar. They created an amazing atmosphere that could have been right out of the Kit Kat Club in the Weimar Republic or a Soho New York club in the 60s.
After a brief and enjoyable break as people settled into their seats Matteo Lane and his friend Henry Koperski took the stage. Lane is an opera singer, illustrator with his own comic Princess Cupcake, oil painter and all of this on top of his amazing wit and great comedic presence that he’s shared in a variety of you tube projects as well as his podcast Inside The Closet. Koperski is no slouch himself, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and talented wit on his own the two settled into an uproarious banter that could only be found between two people completely at ease and trusting of one another’s talents. Koperski accompanied Lane on the keyboard as Lane dropped bits of music history, Streisand trivia and observational humour in an ebb and flow that once caught up in you wanted to carry you on forever. Jokes flowed about Cher, Maria, Madonna, Britany and Christina. The wit is sharp and biting but once the singing starts, my God, you are lost. I don’t want to give away too many of the songs but as a fan of Cabaret his Maybe This Time was heart stopping.
These two shows and three sets could not have been more different but all were equally enjoyable and worth seeing. If you have the opportunity get out and see both Fortune and Matteo and if you can see Matteo Lane presents: Streisand at the Bon Soir do it. It’s the closest thing to a perfect cabaret performance you will likely ever see.
Matthew Ardill & Jason Deline
Partners in crime we collaborate to create the Comedy Album Book Club, a deep dive into comedy history.