Bakersfield is well-known for its music, but the scene making waves both locally and outside our city limits consists of comedians -- amateur and pro -- who are staking their claim on the comedy circuit.
This weekend there are two shows that are worth checking out. The first is on Friday at Jerry's Pizza's downstairs, which gets the improv treatment: tables and candles, a comedian, a brick wall and a microphone. Even though it's open to all ages, some of the comedians work blue, meaning the subject matter and language will not be appropriate for anyone with delicate sensibilities or for kids who aren't allowed to see R-rated movies.
Local comedian Ben Bradley is one to watch -- his performance is so, so, so wrong and offensive but genuinely funny, almost brilliantly so. At points you forget this guy is from Wasco; in fact, you'd swear he's just stopping by on the way to a bigger gig. The headliner is Connor McSpadden from Los Angeles.
The second show is at Bakersfield mainstay Narducci's, which hosts a comedy show on Wednesday. Headliner Jim Trino has been performing for years, and his tales and observations as a recovering addict are as cathartic as they are funny -- really, really funny; sometimes painfully funny.
Anyone with a TV set in the '90s was a witness to the glut of comedians with their own shows: Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr and Ray Romano, among others, saw their careers bear fruit after years of touring club to club and playing late-night talk shows like Carson and Letterman. Now, with the Internet, that dream isn't the only path to success.
Comedy has been a staple in Bakersfield for years, quietly. But with the rise of open-mic nights, I've noticed more people taking the leap from being funny with friends to trying their luck with the public. Some comedians use the open mic forum as a training ground, while more experienced performers see the opportunity as a way of trying out and honing new material before it gets morphed into their act. The biggest hurdle I see -- most comedians I talk to agree -- is that there are no set comedy venues in town. There are many music venues but none specifically tailored for comedy, so that forces comedy promoters and bookers to scramble and migrate like ronin from venue to venue until they find one that sticks.
One of the few mainstays is On the Rocks on Tuesday nights. Promoter Maurice Johnson has made what is an off night into one of the venue's consistent money makers. At $10 a head, he's taken what might have been a losing venture on paper and created a minor miracle, filling every seat in the house with bodies.
Jerry's Laugh Cellar with Connor McSpadden, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jerry's Pizza 1817 Chester Ave.; $10/$8 with student ID; all ages (sensitive material).
Comedy asylum featuring Jim Trino and Eulalio Magana, 9 p.m. Wednesday, Narducci's 622 E. 19th St.; $5.
Tuesday Night Comedy, 8 p.m. Tuesdays; On the Rocks, 1517 18th St.; $10.
What is dueling pianos? According to pianist Jon Kelly: "We are an all-request, interactive musical act that covers music from all genres."
He's not kidding.
Kelly, 32, and his twin brother, Chris -- each manning a piano -- sit across from each other and take turns playing songs and taking requests from the crowd. Generally their material runs the gamut of pop music that spans the decades and genres, from Billy Joel to Garth Brooks.
The interactive part is the way the Santa Cruz duo interplay with the audience. These guys generally enjoy playing the songs they interpret with a distinct lack of irony. Their performance of "No Diggity" by the R&B group Blackstreet, available for viewing on YouTube, is not only note-perfect but performed with a perfect mixture of schmaltz and appreciation.
The brothers will visit The Mark restaurant downtown Friday and Saturday. What should you expect?
"We get everyone involved in a night of music, singing and drinking," Jon Kelly said.
The Kelly Brothers "Dueling Pianos," 8 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, The Mark 1623 19th St. Free. 322-7665.
The Objex and Not a Part of It, 9 p.m. Thursday at Riley's Tavern,1523 19th St. Free; 21 and over.
The fiery dervish that is Las Vegas' The Objex returns to Bakersfield tonight to unleash a unique brand of explosive fun and fury. Voted the best punk band of Las Vegas by the Vegas Rock Awards show magazine in 2012, they've used every gig to prove exactly why they deserved that title. Completely and utterly captivating, their crowning glory is their lead singer Felony Melanie, a gorgeous mohawked ball of lightning that is an unstoppable force of nature -- the very definition of an in-your-face entertainer. She's about as close as most of us will ever be to seeing Iggy Pop in his Raw Power prime and with the vocal chops to back it up. Whether it's on the stage or on the bar itself, you will not be able to keep your eyes off of her -- uninhibited, explosive and ferocious.
But behind their spitfire frontwoman beats the heart of a fresh and fast pop-core band. Guitarist Jim Nasty's playing is crisp and razor sharp, and their rhythm section is tight and punchy. All style and no substance leaves most people a bit put off, but when a band can walk the walk and talk the talk (or, in their case, roar) then you're watching the real deal. Seriously, every time I've seen them, the audience members who haven't been initiated into the Objex Club are left slack-jawed and reeling like something slapped them -- hard. And each and every one of them asks the same thing: "What the hell just happened?"
No strangers to Bakersfield, guitarist Jim Nasty recounts his experiences in our fair city: "We have had some really fun shows and crazy after parties in Bako Burg! It is one of the few towns that we hang out, bring bands to and party all night in. ... Yup, we love that town."