For two years running, Shea Stadium, itself an otherwise anonymous warehouse surrounded by other light industrial buildings, has hosted one of Brooklyn’s best monthly comedy shows, The Macaulay Culkin Show. And while the show has nothing to do with America’s beloved child actor, you quickly forget that when hosts Brett Davis and Sally Burtnick draw you into their world of strange characters who just happened to book comics like Bridey Elliot, Chris Gethard, Gary Richardson and Janeane Garofalo to tell jokes in between the chaos that comes out of college poetry professors, professional wrestlers and terrible rappers hosting the show.
The formula has worked, with Davis and Burtnick throwing two massive summer comedy festivals, getting Jon Glaser to come do a stage reading of a screenplay about a young jazz hopeful and the band Chicago called Whenever Possible Forever and making Sunday night something to be excited for. On Sunday, December 20, the pair celebrate the second anniversary of the show with a traditionally jam-packed lineup, so we asked them to give us their favorite moments in the show’s run, what you should know if you want to throw a beloved comedy show and The Macaulay Culkin Show’s unfortunate scheduling problem with WWE pay-per-views.
Shea Stadium doesn’t seem like a traditional place to have a comedy show at, so how is it that you decided to do your show in a place surrounded by light industrial buildings?
Brett: I love it there. You can see that the Shea crew REALLY cares about what they do. It’s a well-established venue with a great live show archive online. It’s spacious and intimate and friendly. It’s also kind of a mess in the most charming way possible. And while the location isn’t ideal, it also means it probably won’t be wiped away to build condos or office space like other DIY venues in the past few years.
You mentioned in the invite that you did a Wrestlemania-themed show once, and the first one I saw was when the “Skull Fucker” Harley Tucker and Sally took over the show as wrestling heels. What is it about wrestling and comedy together that interests you?
Brett: I’m a big wrestling fan, and naturally that bleeds into characters I do onstage. And an appreciation for it was forced Sally early on in our friendship. Also, Darren Mabee’s portrayal of “Skull Fucker” Harley Tucker is legitimately terrifying. Once at the show, we (as Harley and his manager Sweet Daddy Longlegs) were looking for fellow villains in attendance, leading to an audience member selling his friend’s phone to us for $20. Then he had to hold onto the money as Harley called the guy’s Grandma “from prison” to tell her her grandson was his new wife.
Sally: It’s a form of entertainment that’s so ridiculous, and it’s trying to not be ridiculous. We also love theatrics and it gives us a chance to be as insane as we want. With wrestling, subtlety goes out the window and you can really go big and broad and still be true to what you’re doing.
After two years of putting on a cheap comedy show that draws big names, what advice would you give someone looking to put their own show on (beyond not putting it on the same day as yours)?
Brett: Study EVERY comedy show you can, even the bad ones. Don’t expect to make money. Take chances and ask your heroes. Think outside of the box and make it different. Try to be diverse. Embrace weird shit. Remember that onstage, the guy or girl you saw kill at an open mic might be more entertaining than the one that was just on late night or whatever.
Sally: Go over the top, that’s what normally works for us. Don’t be scared to take chances. As my lower back tattoo says, live, laugh, love.
What has been your favorite moment that happened during the show?
Brett: When I asked him to do the show “whenever possible forever,” Jon Glaser jokingly challenged me to write a screenplay with that title. It was about the band Chicago, the apocalypse and featured the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. When he finally did the show, we did a live reading of it with Glaser as Peter Cetera, Mike O’Brien as an immortal Judd Hirsch and Marnie the Dog as a mute child.
Sally: I liked our Father’s Day show a lot. JD Amato was a mime holding the audience hostage. He’ll be back this month. There are usually three moments during every show where a performer leaves me slackjawed.
Do you have a dream guest you’ve been trying to book that you’d like to call out in the hopes that a little public pleading/shaming would help you accomplish that?
Brett: We’ve been really lucky with getting people, but there are a few. My shortlist includes Jon Benjamin, Kristen Schaal, David Cross and Nathan Fielder.
Sally: I want Macaulay Culkin to come to the show. I think that actually that might not be for the best, though. I dont want to jump the shark!
Which element of the show have you found has been most confusing to people: That it’s called the Macaulay Culkin Show and doesn’t feature him in any way, or that it’s hosted by different characters every month?
Sally: The Macaulay Culkin name thing is a consistently disappointing explanation. There was a joke that explained it, but it wasn’t any good and then the name just stuck.
Brett: I hate the name “The Macaulay Culkin Show” but it’s memorable and we’re lazy. We’re honestly not trying to trick anybody or do some pop culture nostalgia thing or whatever. We’ve maybe referenced him in the show twice. But I love to run with the stupidest idea possible, and it’s such a stupid and confusing name.
Do you have any big plans you can share for the third year of the Macaulay Culkin Show?
Brett: Jeez, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe changing it to The Kieran Culkin Show?
How is it that the show always seems to coincide with WWE pay-per-views?
Sally: I don’t know, but it’s a tragedy.
Catch the second anniversary of The Macaulay Culkin Show at Shea Stadium (20 Meadow Street) on Sunday, December 20 at 8pm, for just $5!