Thrill or be Thrilled 7/8/16 (Live Comedy)

Reviewer: Zep the Bear

The Rialto Theater

Akron, OH.

July 8, 2016

“Bad Boy for Life”

Event creator/host Chad Weaver came out to address the audience. He announced that in light of recent shootings and protests that had been going on around the country the past week, he would be donating all proceeds generated by the event to Campaign Zero and Everytown for Gun Safety. This was a thoughtful and classy gesture on the part of Weaver and all the comedians involved in the show.

A few minutes later, the house lights dimmed and an opening video began to play. It was a cool little package composed of images and public domain footage that served as the show opener. Set to Diddy’s “Bad Boy for Life,” it was an effective tool to set the tone for the evening.

Weaver then performed a short set of stand-up. He did material about Luigi’s and the city’s connection to Alcoholic’s Anonymous and bowling. He noted that Akron is the “Youngstown of the North.” Ouch!!

Weaver explained that the show would consist of rounds in which two comedians would be pit against one another. Each round would have a different scenario assigned to it by Weaver. The comedians may or may not be aware of the stipulation, depending on the scenario. The loser of each round, determined by Weaver, would then have to do something “embarrassing.”

Round 1: James Brassfield v. Mandy Leigh

Stipulation: “The Statler & Waldorf Round”

In this round, each comedian would separately perform five minutes of stand-up material. Two minutes into their set other comedians on the bill would begin to aggressively heckle them.

James Brassfield was first. He got off some funny lines early, noting that noting that girls from Akron have, umm, “ample derrieres…but he phrased it differently.

Then the heckling started. I gotta give it to Brassfield. He is a cool customer. He went joke-for-joke with the hecklers.

Eventually, he regained control of the set and closed by talking about his father who grew up in Jim Crow-era Alabama. He sounds like quite a character.


Photograph via Facebook

Mandi Leigh was next. She opened with a line about the Pokemon Go phenomenon that has swept the country this week.

She then made an astute observation that the Internet has extended everyone’s childhood.

Once the heckling started I was curious to see how she chose to respond.

Much in the grand tradition of a LaWanda Page, she got dirty. She dove into some material about oral sex and how she lost her virginity.

She even inadvertently stumbled across the theme of the bit when she asked the hecklers if they had been watching The Muppet Show.

Finally, Weaver took the stage. He deemed “Walter” (one of the hecklers) the loser. Walter had to perform 3 minutes of material while he was brutalized by hecklers. Fun stuff.

Chad’s Bad Day

Weaver then took the stage and stripped his clothes off, revealing a warm-up suit underneath. He strapped on a pair of goggles to complete the look. He then performed an interpretive dance in which he reenacted the “bad day” he had. Some of the moments from his day were pretty dirty, but for the most part, it worked. Weaver is a bit of a ham, and clearly, isn’t afraid of physical comedy.


Photographer: John Aylward/Facebook

Round 2: Marv Conner v. Sean Sullivan

Stipulation: “The Roast”

Both men were on stage at the same time. They then each went back and forth roasting (making fun of) the other. Conner hammered on Sullivan’s looks, while Sullivan poked fun at Conner’s never-changing material. This was a super-funny segment. A couple times Sullivan broke down laughing at the exchanges, which only made it that much better.

At the end of ten minutes, Weaver declared Sullivan the winner. Conner’s punishment was that he had to crawl across Sullivan’s lap and be spanked for 30-seconds. Conner was a good sport about it, but it was awkward for both of them.

Round 3: Joe Horan v. Jimmie Graham

Stipulation: “Laugh/Boo”

Each comedian would perform a short set of material. Little did they know that on the screen behind them a command would randomly flash instructing the crowd to either “laugh” or “boo.”

Joe Horan was up first. I think this threw him a bit. He had some very funny material but the random cheering and jeering for seemingly no reason threw him just enough. At the end of his set, he left the stage with a “dafuq?” look on his face. Can’t say I blame him. I’m looking forward to seeing him perform without the shackles of the format.

Then it was Jimmie Grant’s turn. Grant seemed intrigued by the random crowd reactions. He punched through with some solid material about a trip to New Orleans and a cheating ex-girlfriend.

At one point, he seemed to have thought that he had figured out the key to the audience reactions. He thought that saying something positive would garner a negative response and vice versa. So he began firing off the most terrible things he could possibly think to say. One particular line probably scored the biggest laugh of the evening, but I won’t repeat it here.

When Grant’s set finished, Weaver declared them both the losers and assigned no punishment.

SRS Slideshow

Weaver then gets up and narrates a PSA slideshow that he made. The topic? Sudden Rake Syndrome (SRS). He had a son who was born as a rake and the slides featured him doing routine daily activities.

Going in, I’d have bet that this bit was gonna tank huge. But surprisingly enough, it went over great. It was funny and garnered the appropriate laughs. I don’t know if that gag will fly with every audience, but all the stars were in line and it worked

Out of Weaver’s various contributions, it was my favorite.

Round 4: Wilson Rivera v. Kali Fencl

Stipulation: “Topical Material”

I’m not sure how much notice the two were given, but they each had to come up with 5 minutes of topical jokes.

Wilson Rivera was up first. He covered topics like smoking weed, the upcoming election, Donald Trump, Joaquin Phoenix, NRA advertisements, and White Privilege.


Photograph via

Kali Fencl. I thought she had some fun one-liners. She talked about the cancellation of the Uncle Buck television series, Bill Cosby, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While I felt she had the stronger material, Weaver declared her the loser. She had to put a pair of goggles and read a page of purposely crummy jokes that Weaver had written. And, oh yeah, the entire time the crowd threw pancakes at her. Who ever said that comedy is easy??


I went into the evening with fairly low expectations. I knew that there was going to be a mixture of competition, multimedia bits, and some sort of random improvisation. The only comedian on the bill that I’d seen before was James Brassfield. I knew that he was funny. Taking all that into account, I figure that I’d give the event a shot.

By the time the night was over, I was happy that I went.

The energy stayed up in the room for the entire show. The performers had some random stuff thrown at them (figuratively and literally) all night. Each and every one of them hung in there and found ways to provide laughs.

I like that Weaver takes chances. All his stuff isn’t gonna stick, but he is out there trying new things and pushing limits. That is what art is all about.

I also wanna shine a little light on Seth Vaill (co-owner) and the Rialto Theater. This is a beautiful little club on the south side of Akron. We don’t HAVE nice things in Kenmore. Well, at least we didn’t.

The Rialto is a perfect little venue. It houses an elevated and recessed stage, great lighting, and a very nice sound system. The Vaill’s have been booking a variety of interesting shows for awhile now. They cater to a variety of interests and tastes. If you ever get to see local alt-hip-hop act Red Rose Panic in that space….maaaaaan, forget about it. Nothing is cooler than that.

As far as I know, the Thrill or be Thrilled show is supposed to be a monthly event. I hope that both Weaver and the venue owners deem this a worthy project to continue because I think something really cool could come of it.


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