Out for Blood

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Henry Zebrowski and I are chatting over pints at the Irish pub Triple Crown which, until this moment, I had vowed never to step into again as long as I lived because of their pinheaded refills policy on iced tea. We’re here because this place is the after-show hangout for performers of The PIT. Three months ago, I gurgled down five iced teas here at lunch and was cold-cocked with a bill itemizing each of those iced teas. “Every restaurant in the world gives free refills,” I painfully recall pleading to a hostile, nonsensical manager.  He shot back his steeliest glare and said (without laughing), “Well, this is Manhattan.”

Because of this dreadfully banal experience, I felt the urgency of Zebrowski’s message. His sketch troupe Murderfist, a mutinous 10-person ensemble, just got done performing at The PIT. He’s telling me all about the upcoming Brooklyn Underground Comedy Festival, a two-night sketch comedy show his troupe is organizing out on the Eastern frontier of transplant-hospitable Williamsburg. It’s a rather unbecoming place for a sketch festival, but there are seedier, more distant places to trundle to, I suppose.

“This is our festival. We want to do a big nasty show in Bushwick. As real as fuck in a gross way,” Zebrowski explains. Murderfist isn’t into pop culture, or anything political; their stuff is situational comedy maddened with intemperate physicality and exploding blood packets. “We just want to be animals!”

Zebrowski’s group is churlish, grizzled, crazy-eyed, and fat—four things you’d likely mutter in a game of Taboo if Murderfist was your word and you couldn’t say “death-row inmates,” “whisky swilling seatards” or “The Bushwackers.” Several of its members, including Zebrowski, have unkempt Amish viking lumberjack beards. A postcard flyer for the Brooklyn Underground Comedy Festival has a picture of Yogi the Bear and a blurb reading “Plenty O’ Bear Ass!” On this same flyer, there are also graphics of swords impaling rolls of toilet paper.
The group all met at Florida State University and, for several years, held a weekly residency at a gay nightclub in a Tallahassee strip mall. Doting, pansexual leather daddies couldn’t get enough, and with their blessing, Murderfist attained total comedy landscape domination over the Florida Panhandle. Despite the adulation of humongous fatsos—and perhaps impatient with the unwavering disinterest from Jeb Bush, a Tallahassee resident who never once came to their shows—Murderfist packed their 300-plus sketches and moved to NYC in 2006 where they speedily ensconced themselves in the bustling sketch community at The PIT.

None of the other groups on the Brooklyn Underground Comedy Festival bill share the unique scrappiness that make Murderfist the demi-children created when GWAR busts a seminal vesicle over ovulating concertgoers. Are there any links between them and the performers they’ve booked? Zebrowski says of the other crews, “They’re all our friends. We just love their work. They’re our favorite sketch comedy groups in the city.” Too true: They’re all in each others’ Top 8s on MySpace.

Many of the groups scheduled to perform, such as Rue Brutalia and Lolabrigada, are part of a promising young crop of sketch artists working their way through the New York City midcard on the marquee slot. They’re not quite ready to sell out a Saturday night, but they’re hungry enough that they’ll take it in another year or two.
The Brooklyn Starr, a 65-seat black box performing arts space near the gritty Jefferson stop on the L Train, is where it’s all going down. No one needs to hang out in Manhattan anymore to see a great comedy show, but must I wade through the hubcap piles and broken glass of Bushwick?

Sensing my skittishness about venturing past the Grand Street stop, Ed Larson, one of Murderfist’s burliest members and former record holder of “the heaviest baby in Florida” (14 lbs, 13.5 oz), chimes in: “It’s just a short sprint from the subway!”

Feb. 1 & 2, The Bushwick Starr, 207 Starr St., B’klyn, www.murderfist.com; 8, $10.

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