Turn It Up For The Meltdown / by Jefferson Geiger

As you read this, I will have finished viewing the premiere of the third, and final, season of “The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail” on Comedy Central. It was hilarious and I laughed a lot. However, as I type this I have yet to see it. It’s Sunday and the show airs Tuesday nights. It’s a little known fact that writers have the power to control time.

But I don’t need to have seen this specific episode to tell you that you should be watching it. It’s not because I’ve been to the Meltdown Comics store in Los Angeles to catch it live. It’s because I have seen the last two seasons and it’s some of the best non-scripted comedy I’ve watched.

Sadly, the third season is the last because hosts Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani and producers Emily Gordon and Ed Salazar announced last week that they’d end the show on October 19. Every Wednesday for the past six years the four of them have entertained audiences with acts by up-and-comers and big name stars.

Chris Hardwick, the founder of Nerdist Industries and host of a plethora of aftershows, created the NerdMelt Theater stage where the magic happens. Comedy in the back of a comic book store seems odd but it quickly became a staple of the LA scene.

Tapings are obviously different than the live experience. When you take a 90-minute show and turn it into a half-hour show, which 20 minutes without commercials, there are pluses and minuses. Some charm is gone but you’re left with the greatest hits and none of the fat. It’s a tapas tasting menu of a variety of comedic styles.

Though it doesn’t have acclaim like places such as the Comedy Cellar, it still attracted famous household names. Judd Apatow, Jim Gaffigan, Dave Chappelle, Weird Al Yankovic, Sarah Silverman, David Spade, Fred Armisen, Louie C. K., Drew Carey, Zach Galifianakis and Aziz Ansari have all performed on the stage. Even the magnificent Robin Williams made an appearance.

Can you imagine sitting on a folding chair in a small room in the back a comic book shop and seeing Robin Williams waltz on stage for an impromptu hour-long set?

The venue’s usual acts are lesser known, but just as hysterical. They’re not bad, but they’re only really recognized by comedy fans. Chances are in conversation one would have to add, “You know, that person from that thing,” and pull up an image on their phone. 

People like Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Ron Funches, Cameron Esposito, Rhea Butcher, Steve Agee, John Hodgman, Garfunkel and Oates, Jenny Slate, Reggie Watts, Eric Andre and Paul F. Tompkins are the bread and butter of the theater.

While the show is fantastic, not all segments are dynamite. Lauren Lapkus is a good actor in Netflix “Orange is the New Black,” but I’m not a big fan of her stand up. I found the high-pitched voices of her characters to be grating. But that’s ok. I’m not watching just her, but also Joe Mande and Natasha Leggero. The format of the show allows viewers to cherry pick what they like.

It’s also a good way to discover comedians that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The show introduced me to Nick Thune and his guitar, Moshe Kasher, Denver-based Adam Cayton-Holland and Andy Daly. I knew of Aparna Nancherla from Twitter but her set at the Meltdown allowed me to put a face and voice to her writing.

Now when I see them have a special on Netflix or a Comedy Central, I know who they are.

“The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail” is one of the few shows where I watch an episode twice or even multiple times. I rarely do that with a drama or comedy and if I do I usually wait a bit before the repeat viewing. Not here. I’ve played an episode immediately after finishing and then question why my sides hurt the next morning.

They say laughter is the best medicine, so you owe it to yourself to catch the final season. And if you happen to be in the LA area on a Wednesday, see if you can grab a show before it’s gone for good in October.

This column was originally published in the September 28, 2016 edition of the Valley Courier.