On Saturday night, a collection of some of the finest talents in the stand-up comedy world gathered in the Theater at Madison Square Garden for Garden of Laughs. Adam Ferrara, Darrell Hammond, Robert Klein, Brian Regan, Wanda Sykes, and Ray Romano each performed a 15-20 minute set. Hosted by Bob Costas, the show was a benefit for the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit charity that works to make dreams come true for misfortunate children, be it from illness, poverty, homelessness, foster care issues, or tragedy. It was a night of laughs for the kids, but not exactly "for the kids," as Wanda Sykes so eloquently put it, "Kids don't have money. I'm making you rich people laugh. Now let's get back to this shit."
When the lights dimmed, a screen descended over the backdrop to play a video clip of David Letterman, the first of many special guests to make an appearance. Dave provided the Top Ten Failed Acts at MSG, with the list including the Whom, Maroon 4, and the Knicks 2002-2011.
As the night progressed, several other presenters dropped by, including Billy Crudup, Brooke Shields, Ben Stiller, and Garden of Dreams board members Whoopi Goldberg and Darryl McDaniels. Goldberg and DMC gave this year's Hero Award to Rory Rosegarten, the show's producer, who tearfully thanked his wife. "That is a smart man. He may get lucky tonight," remarked Al Trautwig in his trademark baritone.
Adam Ferrara started things off with some cliché drug humor, but found his way with the story of picking out his large-handed wife's engagement ring. Darrell Hammond shared a few tales about using his Clinton impression, but he may have shared too much by admitting to having used crack in a crackhouse.
Dick Cavett flubbed Robert Klein's intro, citing him as a cast member in How to LOVE a Guy in 10 Days. He quickly corrected his mistake, adding, "I like my version better." A pianist accompanied Klein on a love song to colonoscopies, where the 70-year-old showed off his impressive singing skills. After more jokes about aging, Klein picked up a harmonica for a blues romp about a restless leg. He totally killed the crowd, and I'm excited to finally spin my New Teeth LP.
The surviving members of Beastie Boys, Mike D and Ad-Rock, had some fun reading Brian Regan's introduction off the monitor at their feet. Despite a small misstep with a sexist joke, Regan tore the audience up with his observations: "I saw a truck with a company's name painted on it: Feedler Roofing Company. How did you not call your business Feedler on the Roof? My name's Feedler, and I'm gonna be on the roof. Feedler Roofing Company!" He topped it all off with a hilarious bit about checking into hotels under different names.
A pair of Johns, Leguizamo and McEnroe, brought out the night's sole comedienne, Wanda Sykes. Wanda talked about the difficulties of raising two white children, and ordering wine for her French wife. While some parts worked, notably one about her son having a head so huge that it wobbles ("I want to take him to a jazz club, so he can just sit there, and people'd be like, 'That baby likes jazz. That's a cool-ass baby."), her set would've felt more at home in a hour special than a featured spot.
The time we'd all been waiting for had finally come. Ray Romano, who has spent more of the last 15 years in TV studios than in comedy clubs, took the stage to thunderous applause. "When Rory was out here and thanked his wife, he scored major points. He cried; that's like a three-pointer!" Romano proved what a masterful stand-up he is, taking an incident that happened earlier in the night and folding it into his set seamlessly. "But no matter what the score is, the men are always behind. When Obama was re-elected, in his speech, he said, 'Michelle, I have never loved you more than tonight.' Even the president!" Over the course of 18 minutes, Ray joked about his wife's irritation at the way he types, taking a knee during sex, and how growing older has affected his testicles: "It's like the world's slowest race to the ground."
The audience in the theatre leapt to their feet as Bob Costas had all the comics out for a final bow. It felt good to know that the ticket cost is going to make kids' dreams come true, and also that mine came true when I got to see Brian Regan and Ray Romano.