I swear I’m not saying this just because Ask a Ninja co-creator Kent Nichols is a fellow bLA contributor, but Ask a Ninja Live! was, as my wizened grand pappy used to say, a total hoot. I’m continually irritated by poorly organized live events, so it helped that everybody had their shit together and the show started pretty close to on time (in live show terms, anyway), but really it was a total package and I couldn’t have had more fun.
I’ve heard a lot about Hard ‘N Phirm, who kicked off the show, but never seen them. Thankfully, they lived up to the good things I’ve been told. While I’m sure they’ll cringe at the comparison, they’re sort of like an American Flight of the Conchords, but with more of a stand-up sensibility. Somebody really needs to give Hardwick and Phirmin a sketch show, because while their repertoire of songs is funny as hell, it’s the accompanying video that really completes the package and I’d love to see what they could do with a budget and a production staff. Their entire set was worth it just to for “El Corazon,” the Hard ‘N Phirm take on passion-fueled Latin standards that had the audience rolling in the aisles and pounding their chests.
Patton Oswalt and ninja goodness (or is that badness?) after the jump…
You’d think that following a rocking opener like H’nP would be a drag, but not when you’re Patton-Motherfucking-Oswalt. Putting is simply as possible, Patton slayed. Of course, this wasn’t the most difficult audience for him. The El Rey was packed with nerds and gamers and comic geeks. In other words, Patton Oswalt fans (and please don’t take offense at that if you’re a nerd as I count myself proudly as one of the gang). Patton’s set was a real treat for me as I hadn’t heard most of it, and he was definitely playing to the crowd with lots of LA-specific stuff that I doubt he’s able to pull out when he’s on the road. The one bit I had already heard was “At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas With A Shovel,” and in a room full of nerds it’s hard to go wrong with that. No wonder he got a bit of a mini standing ovation at the end of his set.
So, with two pretty fantastic acts down and only the live Ninja question asking left, I have to admit I was wondering if it was going to be a let down by the ninja part of Ask a Ninja Live! Hard ‘N Phirm had set the ball admirably, and Patton had pretty much spiked it down the audience’s gullet. Given that there haven’t been many live Ask a Ninja events (only one, I think?), I honestly didn’t know if the ninja and associates had the chops to make good. Well, I shouldn’t have been such a cynic because if the popularity of Ask a Ninja tells you anything, it’s that the god damned ninja is a funny bastard. Rather than having the ninja onstage (which, let’s face it, would’ve been a little weird), he was projected on a large screen. That was a great idea as it allowed them to shoot him simultaneously from a number of angles and switch between them. Not only did that help to preserve the patented Ask a Ninja editorial style, it also meant you weren’t staring at at a boring shot of a talking head for the whole show. Kent was the straight man, walking through the audience with a mic and soliciting questions. The questions were, for the most part, surprisingly good. There were a few boneheads that weren’t nearly as funny as they probably think they were, but with an audience that size and that’s mostly derived from the internet, that’s to be expected. The ninja handled about 99% of the inquiries with a comedic deftness that probably shouldn’t have surprised me. There were occasional moments that weren’t as funny, but none of the squirm-inducing lack of funny that I dread when it comes to improv. Things wrapped up pretty suddenly when, after an hour or so of questions, the ninja got irritated with Kent mistreating an audience member, disappeared off camera and reappeared on stage, killing Kent with a deft twist of the neck. Not sure who he’s going to get to run the camera from now on, but as they’ve already filmed the holiday episode (which they gave us an early viewing of during the festivities), I guess he’s got a few weeks to dig up a replacement.
But no show is 100% awesome, right? There were minor things to niggle about if you had to. Co-host Olivia Munn (surprisingly not mentioned on the show flyer) is super hot, and seems really nice, but her seemingly scripted stage banter is just plain not good and is what keeps me from watching Attack of the Show more often. Likewise, parking at the El Rey sucks, and drink prices are completely redonkulous. Next time, I’ll remember to rock it high school style and bring my own spirits to chug in the car. The only thing that seriously bummed me out was that I was watching from the balcony and never got to ask my question. I’ll definitely be back and up in front next year because I need to know what the ninja himself has to say about the classic conundrum: Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow?