A new comedy show in Los Angeles is rapidly demonstrating its potential to become one of the city’s best. JJ’s Comedy Cabaret at the Crown City Theatre in the North Hollywood Arts District is a highly engaging, high energy variety show featuring some of the country’s most talented performers of stand up, sketch comedy, improv and music.
Produced and hosted by acclaimed comedian Jennie McNulty and stage and television actress Joanne McGee-Lamb, the show’s appeal lies largely in the range, depth and diversity of its talent. The May 18 production was dubbed a “Detroit Reunion” show and featured six top stand up comics originally hailing from Motown.
The Detroit theme provided a common connection for the comedians, but their unique individual talents set them apart. The Detroit Six included 30-year comedy writing and stand up veteran Mark Sweetman who filled the packed house with laughter as headliner with his nuanced storytelling and bone-dry wit. In contrast to Mark was Lisa Goich, radio host and author of “The Breakup Diary: A Guided Journal.” After a 12-year hiatus from stand up, Lisa delivered a hilariously irreverent, self-deprecating set with such impeccable timing and flawless presentation that it was impossible to believe she had stepped away from the art for even a minute. Fellow Detroit native and actor Elliott Branch (“Killing Tarantino” and BET’s “Comic View”) left the audience reeling with laughter with his spot-on impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson and his tales of the trials and tribulations involved in being such a famous actor’s doppelganger. Actor, writer and voice over artist Michael Orenstein, meanwhile, won over the audience with an endearing gruffness born of his encounters with various annoying people and frustratingly funny circumstances. A more loveable malcontent than Mike would be hard to find. Comedy writer Steve Billnitzer, on the other hand, tickled funny bones with his clever plays on words and astute observational humor.
In addition to the Detroit-bred comics, the May 18 production also featured comedic insights on the topics of love, relationships and family from renowned journalist Norma Zager, the first comedian to have her own comedy/cooking show in Las Vegas. Comedy sketch group the Angry Daddies pulled in huge laughs as the guys (Mike Player, Dave Fleischer and Mark Barnett) performed a Boy Scout sketch that was equal parts timely and side-splitting. Comedian Christian Shirm demonstrated both her acting and comedic talents in her incisively funny portrayal of self-created character Sue Bledsoe, a dizzyingly ditzy news reporter whose catch-phrase is an enthusiastic and heartfelt, “Oh My!” In the midst of all these diverse and distinct talents was an even more unique and rare performer – cellist/comedian Nina Daniels. Nina intermingled her elegant, evocative cello music with witty and gritty stories about her upbringing in a tough New York neighborhood. The stark contrast between the delicate, soothing beauty produced by her cello and the underlying poignancy of her stories intensified the impact of both; leaving the audience’s heartstrings as well-played as the strings of her instrument.
Credit for bringing together such a wide array of distinctly skilled performers has to go to producers/hosts Jennie McNulty and Joanne McGee-Lamb for their ability to procure such remarkable talent. The contrasting styles of McNulty and McGee are part of what make them such a powerful duo in the comedy game. Jennie, one of the six comedians originally hailing from Detroit at the May 18 production, is a nationally and internationally known performer who was named “one of the premiere comedians in the country” by the New England Blade. She has performed on MTV Network’s LOGO channel in two “One Night Stand Up” comedy specials and was featured in the hit NBC show, “Starting Over.” She is an infectiously energetic, remarkably deft comic with a warm, disarming style and some of the best improv skills in the business. Joanne is a classically trained stage actress with a background in Shakespearean theatre. She has a commanding stage presence that infuses her humor with passion and puts extra punch in all of her eloquently executed punchlines. Together, Jennie and Joanne create an unparalleled atmosphere of fun and frivolity that attracts top-notch talent to JJ’s Comedy Cabaret – talent that will almost certainly ensure continued packed houses at the Crown City Theatre for a long time to come.
The next JJ’s Comedy Cabaret performance will be a Happy Hour-themed show at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 22 at Crown City Theatre Company located at 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA 91602 (West of the Lankershim/Vineland intersection, behind St. Matthew’s Church). Admission is $10. For additional information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 818-605-5685.