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Publication: Syracuse New Times
Author: Baker, Chris
Date published: April 11, 2012

Three big-time comedians walk into a bar. "Where are you playing this weekend?" the bartender asks. "Syracuse," says the first. "Syracuse," says the second. "Syracuse," says the third. "All together?" the bartender responds. "Syracuse," they reply in unison.

The upcoming collision of comedy begins with Aziz Ansari on Friday, April 13, 8 p.m., at the Onondaga County War Memorial, 800 S. State St. Then Daniel Tosh offers two sold-out shows at the Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St., at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. The Landmark also caps the weekend with a 7 p.m. gig featuring Gabriel Iglesias on Sunday, April 15.

The super-saturation of standup in the Salt City this weekend may have come about by chance, but the powers-that-be with each booking organization seem unruffled by the unexpected competition.

Denise DeRienzo, executive director of the Landmark, sees no real problem with the crowded schedule. "Comedy generally does very well for us," she said. "It's always a popular seller." The Landmark is a rental house and therefore doesn't book its own shows. But DiRienzo said the promoters were confident each show would draw a very different audience and the two, therefore, would not work against each other.

Tosh was originally booked for just one show, which sold out in less than an hour. The promoters scheduled a second performance, which sold out within three days, DiReienzo noted. Ticket sales for Iglesias' Sunday night booking haven't been as strong-a little more than half of the 2,900 available seats have been sold as of a week before the concert, according to Ticketmaster. Iglesias' tickets are available for $40; visit Ticketmaster's web site or call the Landmark's box office, 475-7980, for more information. And unlike the other comics' randy shticks, Iglesias' show is family-friendly.

Ansari's show, part of his new "Dangerously Delicious" tour, is presented by Syracuse University's University Union student organization, although townies can get in for $30. Ducats are available through Ticketmaster or the Oncenter box office, 760 S. State St. (435-8000). According to DiRienzo, "Ansari was booked several months after our shows were contracted."

University Union doesn't seem too concerned about the comical competition, however. Amanda Shaw, co-director of performing arts for UU, says the Ansari show was officially announced on Jan. 22. "Honestly, I didn't know at the time that there were two other comedians in town that weekend," Shaw said. "But I really don't think it affects us."

UU decided to hold Ansari's show at the Onondaga County War Memorial, which accommodates a larger crowd than SU's Goldstein Auditorium (where such events are usually held)-6,600 seats vs. 1,500. While the Carrier Dome may seem a more logical venue for an SU-sponsored event, Shaw said it wasn't a good fit. "Comedians tend to not want to play a venue that big," she said. "It's just not as intimate of a setting."

Shaw was unable to divulge exact sales numbers, but cited an estimate a bit shy of 3,000 sold just nine days before the War Memorial show. "With college students we usually see a lot of last-minute sales," she noted. "Everyone gets their ticket the week of the show." Shaw expects they will sell roughly 1,000 more tickets before the performance.

Still, it's difficult to ignore the nearly 6,000 people who bought tickets to Tosh's show, two weeks after Ansari had been announced. The two comedians appeal to a common demographic: young people. Tosh's TV show on Comedy Central, Tosh.0, is essentially America's Funniest Home Videos for millennials, curating select YouTube videos for viewers. In 2010, the show reached No. 1 for its time slot among men 18-24 with nearly 3 million viewers. The 36-year-old comedian has more than 5 million followers on Twitter.

Ansari, too, is big among the college-age demographic. In addition to his uproarious role on NBC's Parks and Recreation, he has hosted the MTV Video Awards and starred in films with Jesse Eisenberg (30 Minutes or Less), Adam Sandler (Funny People), Jason Segel (I Love You, Man) and Seth Rogen (Observe and Report). Ansari has plenty of funny bits of business, too, such as his riff on Coldstone Creamery: "I couldn't even get a small because their sizes are 'Like it,' 'Love it,' and 'Gotta have it!' What kind of crackhead terminology is that?"

In a survey conducted by UU in the fall, 53 percent of SU students ranked Ansari among the top three comedians they would like to see come to Syracuse. Jamie Berman, Shaw's fellow co-director of performing arts at UU, said this weekend was selected "due to venue availability, artist availability and consideration of university holidays and vacations."

UU's entertainment selections have created some buzz on the Hill this year. In February, UU held the first "Rock the Dome" concert, featuring Ludacris and Rick Ross, selling around 7,000 of the 9,500 available tickets for the Carrier Dome show. The recently announced lineup for the annual Block Party, including Kaskade and Cold War Kids, received harsh criticism from the SU student body. A poll released by The Daily Orange cited more than 60 percent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the musical selection. Moreover, the Twitter hashtag #ThingsIdRatherDoThanGoToBlockParty became a trending topic less than 24 hours after the announcement.

And before the weekend's comic choices commence, Eastwood's Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., will host Australian comedian Jim Dailakis on Thursday, April 12, 7 p.m., as part of a benefit for local boxing booster Ray Rinaldi that also includes a screening of Big City Knights, a drama from Canastota auteur-actor Tim Scanlon. Admission is $15; call 436-4723 for details.

-Chris Baker

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