On Sunday night, comedian Doug Benson (the star of documentaries such as "Super High Me" and "The Greatest Film Ever Rolled") indulged in his drug of choice and performed before an adoring Turner Hall Ballroom crowd.
Benson began the evening by welcoming the crowd and reading off a series of tweets that were sent to him regarding the show from fans. This was a nice way of acknowledging the audience, but it went on a little too long, especially when some of the tweets didn’t offer Benson much to riff on. Even Benson was aware that it had lasted past its shelf life, explaining that he only had 57 more tweets to read off before the show could begin.
The opening act for the evening was Benson’s regular cohort Graham Elwood of the "Comedy Film Nerds" podcast. A good portion of Elwood’s material from the evening was from his recent second album, "Palm Strike Dance Party." Elwood displayed some impressive physical humor when offering his takes on martial arts and yoga.
Originally from the Madison area, Elwood knew which buttons to push with the Milwaukee crowd. He said that before the show, he and Benson encountered tailgaters in the parking lot and wondered to himself if bratwurst-flavored marijuana was available in the state.
When Benson came back, he performed a relatively short set that wasn’t that much longer than Elwood’s. Benson has been very prolific with his output, releasing an album a year since 2008. However, it is truly his persona that makes the material work so well.
Part of Benson’s appeal is that he makes his act seem so effortless. After talking about his views on the "Taken" series of films and bringing up "Inception" after talking about his dreams, Benson summed it up by saying "In case you guys haven’t figured it out, everything I talk about will eventually be a movie reference."
Benson also had a few moments of silly asides, such as one point when his cellphone started going off with noises of pinball bumpers being rattled and points added up. Benson explained that he set an alarm to remind himself how much he enjoyed playing pinball.
After finishing his set, Benson brought Elwood back on stage and announced that they were going to play a round of the "Leonard Maltin Game," the best part of the "Doug Loves Movies" podcast. For those unfamiliar with the game, a short summary of a film is read from one of Maltin’s movie guides (without any details that are total giveaways) and the number of actors billed in Maltin’s description. After hearing Matlin’s summary, contestants wager "Name That Tune"-style, that they can name the film in X-amount of actors.
Audience members in the know brought clever name tags in an effort to get selected to participate. One fan even threw his work ID tag onto the stage, which Elwood thanked him for and then pocketed it for himself. Benson revealed the prizes that were at stake, including his CDs, as well as Elwood’s. Benson also threw in a brilliant ad lib that "one of the stars of 'American Beauty'" was up for grabs as well, referring to an empty plastic bag.
This final portion of the evening was truly the highlight, as it showcased the natural strengths of Elwood and Benson. Elwood’s funniest moments of the night were his loving riffs at the first contestant of the evening, who was wearing a championship ring his team received for winning a state division in 1997. Elwood played it off as if this high school victory was the only thing that mattered to this man, and it was really funny without crossing the line into being mean.
Benson comes up with the best puns for category names and did not disappoint with the options available on Sunday. For example, there was "Row vs. Wade" (movies in which a character is lost at sea), "Million Dollar Baby Arm" (films featuring full frontal male genatalia) and "The Dogfather" (films featuring a character who is dyslexic). Elwood was strong competition for the two challengers he faced, but the second challenger was impressive in that he named the film and also its top three stars after outbidding Elwood with negative three names.
Benson’s closing remarks indicated that not only will he return to Milwaukee in the future, but because there were so many podcast fans in attendance, he would aim to do a full-blown "Doug Loves Movies" show. While the "Leonard Maltin Game" was a perfect dessert, it would be great to have it as the whole meal sometime soon.
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