Sunday, November 1, 2015

Furious and Funny

Comic Eddie Ifft hits a nerve in post-modern America

By Carl Kozlowski 01/12/2012
It’s Thursday night at the Improv comedy club in West Hollywood, and Eddie Ifft is frothing up a frenzied crowd. He riffs on a recent cross-country trip with his girlfriend that coincided with her period, resulting in emotional agony that took the couple from star-crossed love to a bitterly funny breakup within five days on the road together.
But as horrifically funny as that tale is, it’s nothing compared to Eddie’s anguish over the state of the US and the presidential candidates being offered to the 2012 electorate. And taking things even further, he says we only have to blame ourselves for the poor selection — he fires on all cylinders as he decries the myriad ways Americans have chosen to tune out reality in favor of psych meds and reality shows like “Jersey Shore.” 
Drawing shocked gasps along with laughs, and building to a crescendo of wild applause, Ifft finally storms off the stage and out of the showroom to decompress over a beer and some mahi mahi in the club’s restaurant. And as he sits for an interview to promote his upcoming shows at Pasadena’s Ice House comedy club Friday and Saturday, an endless parade of comics drops by to pay tribute to the Pittsburgh native whose outrage over the state of his homeland led him to become more popular in places like Australia (where he has sold out the world-famous Sydney Opera House) than here in the US. 
“That’s probably why I’m not bigger than I am — I have ADD, and on stage I can talk for 10 minutes about campaign finance reform and special interests having too much clout in our electoral process, and right after that I’ll talk about shaving designs in my pubes,” says Ifft. “That’s a problem. Sometimes the dirtiest shit makes me laugh, but I like to think that my life and comedy is similar to a ‘South Park’ episode: There’s a lot of shit and dick humor, but it’s masking deeper issues. Like I’ll let you know there’s a real AIDS problem out there.” 
Ifft grew up in Pittsburgh and turned to comedy after his own father fired him from the family’s insurance agency. He was canned because he agreed with several male customers who mulled over the concept of life insurance “and wondered why their wives get a million dollars just because they die. I said I didn’t know either, that they should just get a job, and my dad said that kind of answer couldn’t fly.”
Nonetheless, Ifft considers being a comic — work he describes as “selling dick jokes”— to be perfectly in line with the family’s tradition of sales (his mom was a real estate agent). But he’s never received much emotional support from his folks in return. He recalls taking his mom to a theater, where he was about to tape his second Comedy Central special, and finding her only response was, “It’s not that big.”
Despite his career status as a verbal grenade-throwing radical whose views can’t fit comfortably under Republican or Democrat labels, Ifft grew up sharing his parents’ Republican opinions. But when he went to work as an intern for former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter at age 20, his up-close views of Congress and the legislative process drastically changed him forever. 
“I was the worst possible type of person to work in the halls of Congress, because I don’t respect authority and I was always trying to make the other interns laugh,” Ifft recalls. “You were supposed to call everyone ‘Senator,’ but I’d look over a ledge a floor above Ted Kennedy as he walked by and say ‘Hey T-Bone!’ and duck before he could see me. I wasn’t exactly fired, but let’s just say the internships are renewable, and mine wasn’t renewed.”
As he looks incredulously at the fact that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is now a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, he also recalls playing in a softball game between Specter’s and Santorum’s office staffs. The interns were told to let the senators get on base “no matter what,” but Ifft says his competitive nature wouldn’t allow it. 
“So Santorum hits the ball right down the line to me at shortstop, and I fire the ball over to first base, determined to make him earn it,” says Ifft, his face lighting up with defiance as he tells the story. “The first baseman purposely dropped the ball to let him on base, and I started screaming ‘No!!!’ When a pop fly was hit next, I made sure I caught it, and I chased down Santorum until I personally tagged him out and yelled, ‘You are OUT, sir!’ I’m sure that didn’t help keep the job going, either.”
Over the next two hours, Ifft holds hilarious court as he rips on homophobia, both the Christian Right and atheists and how he doesn’t believe there’s not a single elected official in the United States that is not “bought and paid for” by corporations. 
“I think comedy is easy, and there are 10 million of us doing it,” says Ifft. “The challenge to me is saying something you’re not supposed to say and getting them to laugh. I really like when I do a corporate gig, elderly or a cancer center and I have people doubled over laughing at things you’d assume they wouldn’t laugh at. 
“But I find it very frustrating that we’re living in a political climate where we’re reaching an economic apocalypse, and some people are trying to start a revolution and are getting zero support from the entertainment community, who could inspire and lead the youth,” says Ifft, referring to the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements. “The youth drives revolutions, and so the powers make sure no youth gets motivated. In Greek and Roman times, satirists made fun of the politicians because the only power they had was to embarrass them, and sometimes they’d embarrass a politician so bad that they’d kill themselves. We have completely lost our way in that regard.” 

Eddie Ifft performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $17.50 to $24.50. Call (626) 577-1894 or visit 

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