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Villaseñor shines, Che struggles inside Boston Calling’s Arena on Sunday

Photo Credit: Jason Greenough for Vanyaland
 
 

While Melissa Villaseñor earned high marks, Michael Che delivered an anti-climactic finish to the festival’s otherwise excellent comedy component

The final evening on the comedy stage at Boston Calling is meant to bring the best of the best, and the best of the best are supposed to give the crowd the best they’ve got to shut the Arena down. 

Such was not the case in 2019, however, as Saturday Night Live star Michael Che took to the main spotlight on Sunday (May 26) to deliver an awkwardly stunted set of half-baked thoughts that, while having a lot of potential if they were fully developed, didn’t fully translate as much with the crowd as one would hope. It fell flatter than a Ken doll’s crotch. But, to be fair, it wasn’t really all his fault. You can also blame Amber. (Read on, because this will make sense later.)

Strolling up to the mic to greet the crowd for the last time this year, Lamont Price brought the heat once more to the stage for his final appearance of the weekend, straying away from the staple material he unleashed on the crowd the previous two days to start his set. 

Photo: Jason Greenough

Starting with a fresh bit on what the Golden Girls’ house must smell like, and a loose, yet still pretty accurate rundown of the characters of the iconic show (“Dorothy was about six-ten and played for the Celtics in the ’70s…”), the Dorchester native capped off his weekend as emcee with the crowd in the palm of his hand, much like his almost-customary Miller High Life, and even after returning to the material he cranked out to the Friday and Saturday crowds, Price was still ridin’ like a stone cold killer all the way to his introduction of Saturday Night Live’s Melissa Villaseñor.

The enthusiastic impressionist took the stage to a large applause from the once again near-capacity crowd, and while her relatable stories of going to the bathroom with a backpack on because there was no hook to hang it in the stall, her love for the Sims video game franchise, and late night encounters with her sleepy mother brought consistent swells of laughter out of the crowd, the real magic of Villaseñor’s set was her impression work.

Ranging from Sia and Florence and The Machine, to a spot-on impression of Lady Gaga that highlighted her outstanding natural singing abilities, and more specific scenarios like Sandra Bullock knocking over dominoes and Gwen Stefani getting pulled over, the California native’s biggest strengths were on full display. 

The thing that really puts Villaseñor’s performance amongst the top sets of the entire weekend was her undeniable ability to connect with anyone and everyone in the audience at least once. There was something in her set for everybody in attendance, or so it seemed, and although she went over her time, resulting in somewhat of an abrupt end to her set, the time she had on stage proved to the Boston Calling crowd that Villaseñor is nowhere near where she deserves to be in the comedy ranks.

The flow of the entire weekend on the Arena stage has been continuous and fairly smooth. One comic passing the baton to the next, ending with a crazy applause, and festival-goers make their way back out into the complex to go eat Trolley Dogs. It was a flow that didn’t need to be messed with. Insert Michael Che.

I get it — every performer is entitled to putting together a high-level production that will leave the fans with a great experience at the end of the night. That’s totally fine. But when the elements that make up that high-level production serve as a distraction to the comedy that is supposed to be present during a comedy show, it can get tired really friggin’ quick.

Photo: Jason Greenough

Following an awkward 10-minute intermission that messed with that ever so precious flow, New York-bred DJ and comedian Cipha Sounds got folks pumped up for what was coming with his turntable magic. Once he got everyone on their feet and “swag surfing”, the time had come for the main event — or so we thought.

As the crowd erupted at the sight of Che’s name gracing the screen behind the stage, it equaled out to nothing more than a technical misfire as NYC-based comedian Rosebud Baker took the stage to get the crowd a little bit warmer.

After riffing on the tough year she’s had so far, with pet deaths and break-ups making up the majority of her hardships, Baker left the stage, and the crowd swelled with anticipation again as Che was finally introduced. Judging by the packed house and the raucous applause he received, it was as if the crowd seemed to forget Che’s multiple digs at Boston for being the “most racist city” he’s ever been to.  Well, every time he’s taken the stage in the city since he first said that a few years back, he’s absolutely killed on stage, so maybe he would’ve been better off saying it again, because what followed all the hype of his headlining set was nothing more than a sputtering workout set, or so it seemed.

Photo: Jason Greenough

From the moment he walked out, it was abundantly clear that Che was not super prepared, material-wise. Jokes were missing their mark, and the SNL cast member sputtered out half-baked thoughts that could’ve landed solidly had they been a bit more polished, but, ironically enough with a DJ sitting behind him the whole time chiming in on his jokes to laugh into the mic, he just wasn’t hitting the groove. 

*Record scratch*

And that’s when Amber came in.

As if the flow could be anymore disrupted, a drunken fan decided that the best time to strike up a conversation with Che was smack dab in the middle of his set, and a number of fans began to scream out random questions about his feelings about his Weekend Update co-host Colin Jost — and that was pretty much the nail in the coffin. Che couldn’t seem to regain any semblance of comedic composure, and after numerous instances with this one specific heckler welcoming herself to chat with him from the barricade, it was obvious that this would an hour and 20 minutes that a good chunk of the crowd would rather have back.

After another attempt at setting up a joke about how black people aren’t diagnosed with certain diseases as much as white people are, which got a good amount of laughs and, once again, would have been outstanding if it had been a bit more polished, Che gave it one more go-around with a rundown of the sketches he wrote that weren’t picked up in the recently-wrapped season of SNL

After being warned of his time overlapping the DJ set that followed him on the Arena stage, and the crowd starting to file out before he even left the mic, Che bluntly admitted defeat before the most anti-climactic exit I’ve ever witnessed before at Boston Calling. “Let’s just face it,” he said. “This was bad, but I enjoyed every moment of it.”