Sunday night the stars align for The Feeding America Comedy Festival, a ridiculously loaded assemblage of comedy talent performing from their homes (we’re assuming) and airing at 7pm ET on LocalNow and NBC in select markets.
With a talent roster that includes Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Marc Maron, Adam Carolla, Billy Crystal, Kevin James, Whitney Cummings, Judd Apatow, and a couple of dozen more, the question isn’t really “who’s performing,” because everyone is (except Louis CK). It’s more, what are they going to do?
Because as any of us who’s watched Seth Meyers or Trevor Noah or any comedian accustomed to a live audience try to do their thing from home, with no real-time feedback knows, it’s a little weird. It’s a little stilted. It’s not ideal. But look at it this way: these folks have been cooped up for just as long as you. And, much like dinosaur DNA, comedy finds a way. But even among a stacked lineup like this, a few stand out for various reasons. So here are the performers we’re most looking forward to seeing on Sunday night:
These two are performing separately, and they’re different in many ways — I only list them together because they have something very important in common: they’re both experienced podcasters, two of the biggest in the game since launching their respective shows in 2009 and are thus well accustomed to performing to no audience. Carolla started in radio, has dabbled in TV with the old Loveline show on MTV and Crank Yankers on Comedy Central, then went back to morning radio before starting The Adam Carolla Show podcast. Maron, on the other hand, is a seasoned comic who also did some radio before starting WTF with Marc Maron, which opened the door to acting gigs in Joker and GLOW. If anyone can do comedy with no audience, I’d put my money on these two.
Each of these performers is accomplished and unique, and I’d gladly pay money to see any one of them, but they have an advantage that will serve them well under the circumstances: they're all musicians and have a catalog of funny songs to draw on. Black debuted a new Tenacious D song, “The Five Needs,” in last week’s #Itsnojoke YouTube livestream, so expect an encore of that. I wouldn’t be shocked if Silverman — whose Instagram feed has showcased her percussion skills as she beats on pots and pans from her fire escape in New York City’s nightly 8pm demonstration of support for frontline health care workers — trades her usual acoustic guitar for a spoon and a skillet, and accompanies herself that way. And Adam Sandler, who won raves for his performance on Saturday Night Live last year with a song about his late friend Chris Farley, seems like a lock to bust out some kind of new tune about this completely crazy world we’re all suddenly living in. Oh wait, he just did that on Jimmy Fallon. So yeah, he’ll probably play “The Quarantine Song” again, but with better lighting and sound.
But let’s face it, the real draw for this show is Eddie Murphy, who hasn’t done standup comedy since going out on top with his 1987 concert film Eddie Murphy Raw. Despite having a deal in place for a new comedy special on Netflix and plans for a tour, Murphy bafflingly chose not to try out new jokes in his monologue when he hosted SNL in December (he brought Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Tracy Morgan on stage and let them talk instead. I am still upset about this).
So, given that there’s no audience, I’d be surprised if this is the moment Eddie chooses to (metaphorically) slip back into his leather suit. More likely, he’ll do what I assume most other performers will do: find something to do other than straight jokes to camera. Maybe a sketch? An impression? I wouldn’t mind seeing how Bill Cosby is dealing with Quarantine in prison. Or maybe he could try to (literally) slip back into the leather suit — that would probably be funny.
Here in alphabetical order are the other performers scheduled to appear. I’d bet most of them avoid straight stand-up, but they’re (mostly) all funny people and can be counted on to deliver something worthwhile, whatever the idiom:
The Feeding America Comedy Festival starts at 7pm ET Sunday, May 10 on LocalNow and NBC in select markets.