Funnyman Nick Di Paolo made live comedy a high wire act during his Thursday night set at Helium Comedy Club in downtown Buffalo.
Di Paolo is set to perform four more shows at the club over the weekend.
Weeks after taping his most recent special, “Inflammatory” (set to debut on Seeso early next year), Di Paolo performed a raw set filled with new material.
It’s rare to see a national comic perform new jokes in Buffalo -- at least in Di Paolo’s case, it created an atmosphere that engaged the crowd, even if not every punchline hit.
“I’d rather say new (stuff) and bomb,” Di Paolo said.
He opened with a complaint about always getting booked at Helium while the Sabres are in town (their next-door game against the Tampa Bay Lightning filled the neighborhood parking lots, but not the Helium Club on game night). Di Paolo then riffed on the sex aid thrown onto the field during the most recent Bills game against the Patriots.
Di Paolo then spent the next 20 minutes riffing on the presidential election. The comedian, who leans conservative, talked about his performance at the charity event, Comics Come Home, last weekend in Boston. The crowd turned on one of the comics, Wanda Sykes, after she bashed President-Elect Donald J. Trump.
Di Paolo followed her onstage, and then took heat for mocking liberals.
Later that night, Di Paolo said, he took to Twitter to combat people trolling his account after his performance. He eventually told the Buffalo audience one of the jokes that got him in trouble, an off-color jab at Bernie Sanders’ column from the 70s about rape fantasies. Di Paolo’s pointed tag, which I can’t repeat here, was really funny and got some of the biggest laughs of the night.
The comedian saved some venom for Hillary Clinton and Lena Dunham.
“I hope you guys did the research before you came here,” Di Paolo said to the crowd about his joke targets, later offering a mock comment, “Let’s go down to the comedy club, maybe there’s a Jon Stewart-type.”
Di Paolo also had a great bit about the differences between wakes and funerals that eventually led to conversations he’s had with his wife about their deaths.
On occasion, Di Paolo worked out some of his frustrations on the crowd (particularly a single gentleman sitting front row that was a frequent call back) and the wait staff milling about. Not all of the jokes hit either, but when they did, they hit big, and even ended in some applause for the New York-based comedian.
Since Di Paolo is building new material, it’s hard to know how much of Thursday’s set would remain through the weekend.
But Di Paolo’s comedy has laughs, occasional tension, and most importantly, a strong point of view. No matter what happened at that Boston fundraising show, the Thursday night Buffalo crowd was on board with his jokes.
Feature act Steven Rogers had a solid 20-minute set, playfully bantering with the crowd with jokes about his social anxiety, pothead mom and living with his parents.
“My allowance is the same amount as my rent,” Rogers said.