By Bill Gerdes
The idea of twin comics sounds like it could all go hideously wrong somehow; it smacks of a bad carnie show where toothless meth-freaks tell jokes after their shift at the Tilt-a-Whirl is over for the day. The concept also runs the risk of redundancy: two Andrew Dice Clays might be one (or two) too many. Then there’s the possibility it could all be overly-cutesy and syrupy sweet, Olsen-twin wannabes who’ve jerry-rigged a comedy act in order to further their acting career.
There’s nothing cute, however, about Chad and Cory Baumgartner, the IE-born and -bred comedic duo that produces and hosts “The Dirty Show” at the Ontario Improv every third Wednesday. . . nothing cute at all.
“Dirty” is Born
While Cory and Chad claim in their act that they resemble your typical white trash peckerwoods from the Inland Empire (the brothers have attended high school in Palm Desert, Upland, Ontario and graduated from Alta Loma High), they’re far closer to a pair of Civil War majors captured in some faded Matthew Brady photo before the Battle of Shiloh. Maybe it’s the beards that stretch to a respectable enough length that the duo sometimes gets mistaken by drunken bar patrons for ZZ Top. Or maybe it’s the intensity in the eyes of both brothers—but especially Cory—that doesn’t exactly scream your average night at McChuckles with jokes about 7-Elevens and other lame fare. And at first glance, “funny” is not the first adjective that pops into your head when you meet the Baumgartner twins—serious, dedicated and—again that word—intense pop up instead.
It’s a level of seriousness and dedication that have taken them far beyond the IE and yet lets them continue to have a base camp here with their monthly shows at the Improv.
Their success took a while, however, and there were a few bumps along the way. One problem with their act soon became apparent: equipment. Many of the bars and clubs they started in only had one microphone. Problem. Big problem. They solved this stumbling block easily enough; they now bring an extra mic with them to their gigs, although in the beginning they occasionally did the odd a cappella show, especially at private events, like bachelor parties. Even at a gig in Victorville last week the two went on stage without an extra mic and simply raised their voices enough to be heard throughout the bar.
They also initially had problems with figuring out the timing of a twin comedy act, and there were initial issues with one twin stepping on the other’s punch line. These mistakes faded with experience as they slowly worked their way out of the open-mic ghetto and begin to get paying gigs. An audition for Last Comic Standing didn’t work out. As Chad puts it, they weren’t considered “polished enough.” Meanwhile, they caught the eye of the folks at the Improv in Ontario and after some initial discussion “The Dirty Show” was born in January 2006. This was something of a coup and it gave the boys a leg up in the local comedy turf wars. Chad now describes himself and Cory as “the comedy kings of the IE.” And while other locally born or located comics like Eddie Jarvis and Ace Guillen might beg to differ, Cory and Chad are certainly major players on the scene, mainly due to their five-year run with “The Dirty Show.” After all, the twins are the directors, producers and bookers, basically running the three-ring circus that they intended the show to be.
Who’s the Real Racist?
And that’s really what the show has become; half-underground sensation, half-mainstream success story, “The Daily Show” sells out regularly and often features serious headliner talent like Ralphie May as well as at least one up-and-coming talent from around the IE. As Cory describes it, its as “much a game show” as a traditional comedy show, and the pair gives away tickets, “marital aids” and other sundry items in an attempt to jazz up a crowd that already is seriously pumped up to begin with, pumped up to hear a comedy act that—for better and perhaps worse—fits the comedy zeitgeist of the moment.
If there’s a central thesis to Cory and Chad’s comedy it’s that white people in general, and Cory and Chad in particular, are misunderstood, stereotyped and perhaps just as much a victim of racism as any other ethnic group—maybe even more. In fact, that’s the start to many a show; the twins basically ask the audience if they judged them by their appearance when they walked on stage, and if they believed the pair was racist simply because they look like skinheads. Many in the audience hoot wildly at this, and then get told off by Cory and Chad that they are the racist ones. Then the audience hoots wildly some more. It skirts the line of being overly didactic and sermonizing, but by the time this hits you, the twins have barraged on to another topic.
But it’s the rhythm of the twins that really grabs you. There’s no freakin‘ let-up, no stopping even for laugh breaks—supposedly a huge no-no in the comic biz. Cory and Chad don’t wait, they blaze along like the Ramones used to between songs and it works . . . somehow. One joke might bomb, but there’s no time to dwell on it cause they’re on to the next one and it might succeed, often uproariously bringing down the proverbial house. Many aspiring comics go to “comedy coaches” these days to learn the fundamentals, techniques and whiz-doodles, which can occasionally lead to sameness to many acts. Not so with the twins when it comes to timing. They crack jokes as they please.
I caught the twins on a recent Friday night at a bar/lounge/club called Iguana’s in Pico Rivera. Iguana’s is that club you see in a bad buddy-cop picture where the pair stumble into a dive Latino bar chasing the dope dealer snitch who can lead them to the killer—yep, that’s Iguana’s. It’s what Cory describes as the “Cucamonga Quakes of comedy” as opposed to their shows in L.A. or at the Improv in Ontario, which he describes as “Dodger Stadium.” Angel Stadium did not come up. But it’s a club, it’s getting loud, and I got a sit-down with Cory and Chad—who I must admit I’ve prejudged, much like their intro says I would.
Night at Iguana’s
And it’s not so much that they look like brooding Hitler youth, it’s more that they seemed pissed-off and even arrogant when I first saw them across the bar. But they are nice, pleasant and I have no problem believing Cory when he tells me their off-stage personas are far different than what I’m about to witness onstage, and that he and Chad often go fishing together in their spare time. If they had told me that they volunteer down at the local pet shelter helping wounded parakeets find homes, I would have believed them at this point. Then the lights begin to flicker and the show starts.
I love comedy shows at places like Iguana’s—you get to see up-and-comers, never-was-ers, on-the-way-downers and guys and gals who are too dirty, too bizarre or too plain unfunny to ever be on Kimmel. The emcee for the evening, Joey Coco Diaz, has actually done some things in the business though, and he sets about trying to work what’s at the start a tough room. I set about trying to scarf down my almost indigestible nachos. Joey succeeds better than I do. The crowd at Iguana’s is probably 98 percent Latino and, in a trend that will continue, there are lots of Mexican jokes, many involving the difference between Mexican and white women when they are having sex. Joey Coco Diaz also makes me laugh with Lent jokes, which, like Bush jokes, you don’t hear a lot of these days. Chris Simpson comes onstage next and he also tells many Mexican-related jokes, but his best line is about making it to Iguana’s, the pinnacle of comedy.
Then Cory and Chad hit the stage. They’ve won over most of the crowd before they even start; with their goat-farmer beards and shaved heads they stand out on stage in much the same way the “fat” or “weird-looking” comedian does. But it’s their combination of racial and sexual humor, along with plain goofiness and stage presence that make their set a success or as much of a success as you can have at Iguana’s on a Friday when 15 percent of the audience is ossified and just looking to get laid.
My favorite jokes from the twins revolve around their struggles as white guys in the barrio or their general observations about life in SoCal and the IE in particular. At all their gigs, but especially in their Inland Empire shows, the duo makes a big deal of being from (and still living in) the IE. They even mention it at the Pico Rivera show, where it’s greeted with polite disinterest. Chad mentions during the interview that in O.C. the reaction is more viscerally negative, but they still give it a go, even playing off the connection with IE with the name of their production company, Identical Entertainment.
There’s something heartening about the fact the boys don’t want to lose their roots even as they seemingly aim for higher up the comedy food chain. And as Chad also says, “There’s an IE in every state,” and if you’ve ever been to upstate New York you know he’s right.
Yet for every Inland comic transfixed by the bright lights of Hollywood, that comic needs to head west toward the industry shows, the agents, the auditions and all the rest of what makes it possible to, in essence, tell small stories on stage for a living. The twins seem to be no exception to this, even as they insist they won’t sell out their principles or beliefs along the way. They’re due to appear in their first movie, as white wrestlers in Mexico on the Lucha Libre circuit, and I get the idea that despite the loyalty to their roots and all, they’d have no objection to making it big-time. And who could blame them?
As the night at Iguana’s winds down, they head out the door, ready to make the drive out to Hollywood for a midnight show; twin IE comics looking to thrust their unique brand of comedy onto a readily expanding stage.
Just make sure it has two microphones.
“The Dirty Show” with Cory & Chad every third Wednesday of each month at Improv, 4555 Mills Circle, Ontario Mills, Ontario, (909) 484-5411; www.improv.com, www.identicalentertainment.com. 8PM. Their five-year anniversary show is April 20 at the Improv. Cory and Chad can be found on Twitter and Facebook at corynchad and on YouTube on the coryandchadtv channel.