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Fringe day 5: Real men find Jesus sexually attractive

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With its opening weekend behind, the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival is definitely on the go. More than 17,000 tickets were issued over the first four days, which is down from last year's record-setting pace, but is still considerably higher (about 25 percent) than 2008's numbers. There were 18 sold-out performances at spaces large and small throughout the cities. This included Joseph Scrimshaw's Brain Fighters, so plan ahead if you want to catch the final two performances (and a possible Sunday encore would be a good bet at this point) of the show.

Onto Monday evening!

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The S&P gave us an "F" for "Fucked."

The banking industry doesn't sound like a good topic for a standup comedy show, but Phil Van Hest pulls it off, tracing the history of the industry (it's been like a canker on the side of society since Babylon) and delving into the eldritch workings of the Federal Reserve. It's like an hour-long lecture from your favorite eccentric college professor, except with a lot of references to beer (hmm, actually, that does remind me of a couple of my college professors).

While there were plenty of jokes spread throughout the show, there was also a lot of insight into the current state of the economy, the philosophies that have gotten us here, and the sense that the country is just universally and totally screwed. The laid-back style was perhaps a bit too laid back this Monday evening as the energy would sometimes dip (and energy is something that's much-needed when talking about an amorphous subject like money).

Below is a bit from his regular postscript to the show, where he sells bumper stickers (including the one used for the title of this post) to make some extra scratch.



Too soon?

Laughing at a trio of Iraqi insurgents -- who if they weren't so incompetent would be out sowing destruction and death -- is an uncomfortable place to be, but that's where James Vculek takes us in his comedy, subtitled Plan 9 From Baghdad. The trio of freedom fighters certainly have more than a little Ed Wood about them. Cell leader Samir (Ari Hoptman) can't make a quality hostage video, Margaret (Catherine Johnson Justice) is secretly obsessed with the infidel's culture, and Bashir (Joshua Will) is ready to accept any email spam that comes along. They stumble into a hostage situation when Food Network correspondent Wheeler (Alex Cole) wanders into their safe house.

Humor often comes out of discomfort, and this show (a remount of a production from 2006) has that in spades. There is the discussion of a roadside bombing gone wrong, as it did nothing but startle the poor donkey carrying the IED. When they finally get Wheeler to somewhat accept that he is their hostage, all they can do is threaten him with a dull butter knife (shades of Monty Python's legendary "comfy chair") and hide his identity with a Hello Kitty pillowcase. 

The show has also definitely found an audience at the 2011 Fringe. Monday's performance was sold out.