BY BEN RUBENSTEIN
Taking its cue from the Bonnaroo Music Festival, which has successfully included some top-notch comedy acts on its increasingly diverse roster in the past several years, Pitchfork added stand-up performers to the schedule this year. This seemed pretty can't-miss, the only stipulation being that the bookers had to choose comedians that would resonate with the Pitchfork crowd. With the choices of Hannibal Buress (whom some comparison-happy folks have called "the black Mitch Hedberg") and Wyatt Cenac of "The Daily Show" fame, they managed to do just that. Both comedians turned in solid 30-minute sets -- following much "ado" from host Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav. While funny -- the ongoing jokes about fake "sponsors" like Betty Crocker, Mars and Kraft drew laughs -- Harrington's role did go on a little long, especially with an ill-advised marshmallow-eating contest.
Anyone who's seen hometown hero Buress before likely recognized classic jokes like his tale about flavoring his sandwiches with surplus pickle juice, or his short-lived belief that Mott's apple juice could overshadow racism. The Chicago comic -- whose family was in attendance -- also chose some bits that were perfect for the hipster crowd, like a dig at people in his New York neighborhood who have handlebar mustaches. How can these people expect him to take them seriously, he wonders? They should be playing with Slinkys and kazoos and juggling on unicycles. In general, Buress appeared to have a good grasp of the audience, even when he bantered with an irate LeBron James-hater a couple times during the set. Jokes about the Bean (which he labeled as a shiny distraction from all the bad things going on in Chicago) and Fort Wayne, Ind., were appreciated among the locals.
The crowd seemed to have swelled considerably by the time Cenac hit the stage - whether it was because of his Comedy Central notoriety or a dislike for Swedish pop star Robyn (who's "very nice," according to the comic). In any case, the comedian did not disappoint, with conversational rants about everything from Medieval Times to people who claim not to watch television. Probably his most successful jokes were about a cat bearing a racial epithet we can't use here - though the bit was less offensive than it sounds.
Overall, the comics offered a nice break from the sun and the music -- even as the sound from the main stage sets bled in. It'd be nice if they could continue through the weekend, but it looks like the last two acts (Michael Showalter and Eugene Mirman) will have to do.