Ralphie May

Last Night: Jeffrey Ross & Ralphie May at the Colony Theatre

Things got off to a rocky start at The Colony Theatre last night, where Jeffrey Ross and Ralphie May were performing as “The Meanest Men In Comedy.” My boyfriend and I were there to follow up on last week’s “Stage” column (“The World’s Most Righteous Assholes”), which, though not especially funny, was probably funnier than Ross and May’s opening act, Lahna Turner. Turner, who by some bizarre coincidence happens to be May’s wife, seemed eager to prove she could be as cavalierly tasteless as the headliners. Alas, in comedy, “eagerness” often smells like desperation, and by the time Turner dropped the word “niglets” into her schtick, half the audience was trying to disappear beneath the Colony’s plush seats, while the other half stared in wild-eyed terror at the room’s few black inhabitants. There were three. All of them seemed to be employed as security guards, and none of them looked pleased.

But it was over soon enough, and Jeffrey Ross redeemed the situation. Not by being tasteful — it was a bad night for taste — but by being funny. He bashed Newark, made fun of people of various races and creeds, and roasted the latecomers and the sorry sacks in the first two rows. My boyfriend and I were in the second row, but he gave us a miss, concentrating instead on the mummified usher standing immediately to our left. He called the guy on stage and asked him how long he’d been “the crypt keeper.” The man, who was somewhere between the age of eighty and ninety-five, didn’t know what to say. “You’re so hot,” said Ross. “I want to fuck you so bad.”

After Ross’s performance came a brief interlude by Brad Williams, who is a dwarf (a designation Ralphie May would subsequently lambaste, in a bit of comedy borrowed from his previous Just Correct tour). Most of his schtick had to do with dwarfism, which, though understandable, seemed a little heavy for the occasion. One got the sense that the audience didn’t want to do much thinking last night; anything that whiffed of controversy or seemed to possess some pretension to social relevance was met with a quiet, nervous laughter, quite unlike the hearty guffaws Ross elicited when he was tormenting the geriatrics. This was a sort of classic South Beach reaction — on certain nights in certain parts of Miami, we like our good times a mile wide and a millimeter deep. Anything requiring more emotional or intellectual involvement than a drunken attempt at a salsa is highly suspect.

I think May sensed the vibe early, perhaps after watching his wife’s lukewarm reception, and he held back more than usual. May is among the least PC creatures ever shat out by the cosmos, but howlingly offensive material like his can be healing in well-integrated crowds. In front of natty, lily-white audiences like The Colony’s last night, it can seem predatory. May probably knows this.

He muddled through anyway. There were occasional fumbled words, occasional under-developed threads, and quite a few reprimands of the audience (which really did seem a little dead), but there was never any real paucity of laughter. Perhaps just a paucity of exuberance. Not content with that state of affairs, May finished the set with an old bit — called, variously, “The Cuba Joke” and “Norkelin” — that turned out to be the funniest moment of the night. -- Brandon K. Thorp

Here’s the joke, in case you haven’t heard it:

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