News Column

Onstage: Nate Fridson: You Have to Be There

October 17, 2013


Oct. 17--Asking a comedian to describe his comedy is a cruel trick. Unless you expect him to launch into his set over the phone, it's a pointless exercise.

What you're more likely to get is a list of influences and comic heroes. Nate Fridson's include Dave Attell, Richard Pryor and Don Rickles. No surprise there--Nate's a big fan of great comedians including, arguably, two of the greatest comedians who ever lived. You decide which two.

So you go to YouTube and check out some of Fridson's performances. They're good. Some of the jokes are very good. You get the impression that he works hard at what he does, that he is constantly honing his delivery and editing his punch lines. He's not filthy, he's not absurdist and he's not a stream-of-consciousness improviser. His comedy lives somewhere between the accessibility of Jerry Seinfeld and the quirky viewpoint of Mitch Hedberg. But what does that really tell you? Not much. Comparing comedians is a fool's errand with little reward, even if you manage to successfully rank a comedian on some sort of humor scale. Humor is highly subjective, although there are some things that might be universal.

"Comedians aren't really competing with other comedians," Fridson said, "we are competing with a fat guy falling down. Or a guy getting hit in the nuts. Those are the things that are truly funny."

Fridson, 30, is a native of Michigan who lives in Brooklyn and hosts a weekly comedy showcase at the Beauty Bar in Manhattan with his friends Brad Austin and Adam Sokol. Fridson is hitting the road this fall to work on material that will be recorded in December for his first album.

Live shows are an opportunity to find out what works, what doesn't and what might need to be added. Comedy is a craft, and Fridson tries to write every day. He values editing as much as stage time.

"I'm doing everything I can to run through and add to the set that I'm doing in December," he said.

When he's not performing, he might be walking around his neighborhood talking out a bit to himself, or listening to past performances.

"It's physically painful to listen to yourself," he said, "But it's a crucial aspect."

Knowing where he comes from and how he approaches his craft still doesn't give you a complete picture of Fridson's comedy. There's only one way to get that: See him live.

Fridson said that it's hard to get the full impact of a comedy set if you aren't in the room. Even a live recording or video removes some of the impact of actually being in the audience. Good comedy is something you get personally involved in.

"The immediacy of seeing comedy live can't be replicated easily," he said. "It's probably closer to seeing a really funny friend of yours for lunch."

What: Cool Cow Comedy presents Nate Fridson

Where: Courtyard Marriott, 620 Caroline St., Fredericksburg

When: Saturday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m.

Cost: $15


Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036 --


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