Madison stand-up comedian Stacey Kulow describes herself on her website as “she may appear small, cute and innocent, but is packed with surprises.”
But it was no surprise to the packed audience at the Comedy Club on State Thursday night that the ferociously funny Kulow beat out 71 comedians — including the other two very talented finalists — to win the Madison’s Funniest Comic ’14 competition.
For Thursday’s final round, Kulow and fellow finalists Nick Hart and Sammy Arechar each got to perform their best 10-minute set before a panel of celebrity judges (full disclosure: myself and Cap Times writer Jessie Opoien were among them), and the crowd got to vote as well.
Kulow (who made it to the Top 3 last year) joked that as a female comedian she had to craft jokes about her life experiences, unlike male comedians, who could just make jokes about their genitalia. (Although Kulow did plenty of that too.) She delivered solid material about her Catholic school upbringing and her nerdy boyfriend, although the best and darkest joke of the night had the audience gasping and laughing.
“I’m not ready to have children,” she said. “I had a baby, but it died. You know those little Tamagotchi babies, those little electronic things?
“My baby swallowed one.”
Kulow will be back at the Comedy Club in early May opening for Kyle Kinane.
Arechar’s comedy was much more surreal, with beautifully crafted bits that recalled Steven Wright (“Sometimes I like to put on a hard hat and go to the Cheesecake Factory”) delivered in an offhand, low-energy manner. Bonus points for Arechar for being an expert beat-boxer, and for solving a Rubik’s Cube while doing his act.
Hart’s set touched on his time working at McDonald’s, which sent him into “McTherapy.”
After each finalists did their set, the audience was treated to a full comedy show featuring Chicago comics Liza Treyger and Saurin Choksi. Treyger was a riot, delivering a very funny and filthy set that cannily smuggled in a strong feminist message about body image and gender stereotyping along with the laughs.
For Choksi, Thursday was a big night, his first headlining show ever. He told the audience he had first done an open mic set at the Comedy Club on State five years ago, and loved the club so much that he knew he wanted to do his first headlining set in Madison.
His comments echoed those of many other comedians both locally and nationally about what a well-run and supportive establishment the Comedy Club on State is.
And he also praised Madison audiences — at one point, a punchline required him to do a Chewbacca impression, which he was unable to execute. So several audience members delivered perfect roars from the darkness, to the point that Choksi could conduct them like an orchestra of Chewies.
“You think that would happen in Gary, Indiana?” Choksi said.
The show ended with a surprise appearance from comedian Anthony Jeselnik, the Comedy Central star who played a nearly sold-out show at the Barrymore Theatre Thursday night before dropping by the Comedy Club. Jeselnik, who also said he was a fan of the club, did a few minutes of his act before anointing Kulow the winner.
“I entered a few comedy competitions when I was starting out,” Jeselnik told the finalist. “You know the highest I ever got? First place.”