Modeled after the popular Iron Chef America, which is itself modeled after the quirky Japanese show Iron Chef, Nato Green's Iron Comic is a live game show where five comedians rush against the clock to write a routine from topics suggested on the spot by the audience.
Green hosted the first iteration of the show in December 2005 to a sold-out room in a dive bar in San Francisco.
"It was low-fi, but felt like I was onto something," Green says. "I was deep into thinking about the craft of comedy [at the time], and this struck me as a good laboratory. "
Make-Out Room for two years, then began to make its way up and down the west coast, featured in both SF Sketchfest and Portland's Bridgetown Comedy Festival.
After that, Iron Comic moved to the
Kyle Kinane nabbed the title at last year's Bridgetown, and the Viking of comedy is back to defend his honor May 1 at the Punch Line in San Francisco.
"I like the forced writing," Kinane says of the show's unique format, "and the fear that comes along with it. No time to mince around a bit. If it sucks, it sucks, and you have to tell it right away. It's invigorating."
Competing this time with Kinane will be Guy Branum, Ngaio Bealum, Caitlin Gill, and Chris Garcia.
Whose routine will riegn supreme?
"Everyone in this Iron Comic is a real contender," says Branum, self-named "staff homosexual" for Chelsea Lately, Punk'd, and E!'s Fashion Police. "Kyle Kinane, of course, is a bigtime, big deal national headliner. He's also got a very affable stage persona which I fear will make everyone instantly love him. That's the last thing I need. Ngaio is one of the overlords of Northern California comedy -- my first club work was opening for him, that's intimidating. Caitlin is one of the best comics to come out of S.F. in years ... Garcia's smart, adorable, and one of my favorite S.F. comics of all time." Gill seems to agree, insisting that her only serious competitor is nature itself. She says, "A natural disaster is all that could stand in the way of my victory." Her usual brand of heavy sarcasm and self-chastisement will likely coat any topic she's given next week.
But Kinane has the benefit of the wisdom gained through experience: "Last year, Hannibal Buress farted backstage as a diversionary tactic. I may employ such methods this year."
Fans of Kinane's comedy know that it would be devastating enough for the reigning champ to step into the green room with Taco Bell on his breath.
Chris Garcia, the only other returning contender, declined to comment. Will this aloofness be sufficient to mislead his enemies about his truly unstoppable energy on stage? Also, on May 8 Nato Green will be recording his first live stand-up CD. The show's at The New Parish in Oakland, and tickets are available here.