By Rohan Cruyff and Michael Levin
With the NBA Lockout sending basketball people into a spiraling depression, there's really only one logical way to crawl out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement-sized hole that the league has dug us in: watch Ron Artest do standup comedy. It is natural progression for a man that will soon be known as Metta WorldPeace, a name change that surpasses Chad Ochocinco and possibly World B. Free as most ridiculous in the history of ridiculous things.
Sitting a mere 10 feet from the stage and forced to order two items off the menu (adding to the combined $80 already leaving our pockets for tickets), we braced ourselves for what was expected to be the best night of our lives (and any of your lives, as well).
Unfortunately for our serotonin levels, The Artist Formerly Known As Artest came out to thunderous applause and We love you Ron-Ron's from the only half-filled showroom (on opening night!) to say that he was only hosting the comedy tour. An emcee of sorts. A crushing blow to our 500 Days of Summer-esque "Expectations vs. Reality" segment in our minds. Ron Artest was the comedian that got away.
But even as an emcee, there were a few precious gems from Artest hidden among the three comedians who told the same men/women/ethnicity jokes from start to finish.
And emceeing was probably for the best. It was clear that Ron wasn't entirely comfortable with the prospect of entertaining his entranced listeners with original material. There was no mistaking the flutter in his voice or the not-so-subtle sway in his stance. But the introductory question and answer session -- wherein we learned that Artest changed his name because "Ron Artest was an asshole. Nobody can hate WorldPeace" -- seemingly returned Metta to a comfort zone. Indeed, the spectacle resembled something not entirely dissimilar to a halftime reporter's interrogation; simply replace "how do you plan on keeping this lead?" with "what's the most orgasms you've had in a single night?" And off we went.
From there, the lead-up to the first comedian developed rather predictably, epitomized by the dry but, frankly, required "don't throw a beer at me" reference. But before we proceed, a few words, if you'll indulge us, to set the scene into which our fellow club-goers slotted.
Around the club sat the Hollywood Improv-ers. In the center sat the old writer watching Artest. Around the club they were talking about Artest and WorldPeace. In the center sat the old writer who has never worked with a radar gun, computer, or even stopwatch.
On the stage, Ron Artest jumped. "Bill Plaschke's here!" And so he was.
The audience's questions for WorldPeace also raised concerns as to how familiar some of our revelers-in-arms were with Artest's general body of work; one question volleyed Metta's way, for example, inquired as to where he was from. That "Queensbridge" wasn't immediately and resoundingly roared out troubled our souls, but on we trudged.
As an emcee, Artest proved bonhomous and distingué. Two rounds of applause for each performer, name shout-outs, lusty whooping noises provided by his trusty wingman cum disc jockey. It wasn't what we came to see, but, at the end of the day, the Artest Comedy Night Host is but a small step from Artest the Comedian when considering overall preposterousness.
And in fairness to Artest, his act grew richer as the night wore on. His magnum opus came in story form. It was, allegedly, a summer night, years ago, when an eight-year-old WorldPeace walked into his parents' bedroom where Mr. and Mrs. Artest were sleeping sans covers. The mini Metta spied a frank on the bed and went to retrieve it. But the frank wasn't a frank, his dad punched him in the head, and you're welcome for that image.
Indeed, that tale brought to us the same question we had when we first heard Ron Artest was taking his talents to stand-up: "Is he for real?"
The answer, in both cases, may well be "no," but the entertainment is undeniable.