Sometimes crowds and scenes misdirect and deceive attention, like a magician’s slight of hand.
Such was the case with the crowd of mostly 20 and 30-somethings that gathered Thursday night at Stand Up Live in downtown Phoenix for a set by former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and “Half-Baked” actor Jim Breuer, one of five shows this past weekend.
Although the club that was only 70 percent full, the crowd proved to be just as loyal and responsive as a crowd at a sold-out show.
The first of two opening acts, comedienne Jill Bryan, started the night off kidding about Weight Watchers meetings, discount shopping and her wisecracking son, who set her mother up for the easy punch line about what else besides chickens becomes aroused.
Her follow-up act by comedian Bryan Ricci, a slightly more Italian Charlie Day, further raised the bar for the evening by joking about pot-induced paranoia (hiding the keys to his Buick in a box of Applejacks), his height, the absurdities of life, the constant loop of Lerner & Rowe advertisements and the existence of a local pudding shop.
Ricci scored big laughs pointing out the absurdity of a real-life murder case in which a relative murdered a 103-year-old grandmother for the inheritance, and postulated that person’s ongoing consternation every year she was still alive.
“How impatient do you have to be?” Ricci asked.
He also kidded the local accident attorneys’ “In a wreck, need a check?” tagline and jingles and why a pudding shop only chose to sell that product and their tagline of “Make your vice our rice pudding,” which he quipped that “Lerner & Rowe probably wrote that.”
To an audience, opening acts can be a delay for the act that they paid to see, but Bryan and Ricci were unusually up-to-par with their headliner.
According to a press release, “Fans adoringly describe Breuer’s multigenerational family comedy as the modern-day Bill Cosby, if he was wearing a Metallica T-shirt,” which contains some elements of truth.
Cosby’s physicality and pension for crafting jokes about family relations and his children in the “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” mold, certainly shares some paternal DNA with Breuer, but where the comedian cracked wise as the exacerbated everyman, Breuer narrated with more of a bemused bystander quality.
Where he diverts from the Cosby comparison is that Breuer very much represents someone from his generation.
He embodies these Generation X qualities, only mixed with that of a tempered family man, such as when he talked about his adoration for Metal, how his wife and himself were accosted by a “herd” of younger Slayer fans, and how eager the comedian was to be a grandfather to subject his grandchildren to the genre.
“Metal is ‘The Wiggles’ to adults,” Breuer explained.
The comedian followed that up with several tales about his three daughters, including an incident where he witnessed one of his daughters have a tantrum and the tactics his wife used to get her off the floor — “When I get to five, I put you up for adoption!”
Breuer is also yet another comedian who has smart-alecky children. On a vacation to Germany his children amused themselves by spinning translation for exit, Ausfahrt, into “ass-fart.”
“So what did you come here for tonight?” Breuer asked the audience.
A handful of fans shouted out to the comedian several of their favorite routines, including “Joe Pesci,” “Goat Boy” and “Tequila.”
During this part of his set, he recounted the origins of “Goat Boy,” one of his reoccurring characters on “Saturday Night Live,” which came about from him and his friends pretending to have Tourette’s to be served free beer.
The laughs climaxed when Breuer told another story from his mischievous youth about how he and a friend broke the monotony of working in the paint section at Sears, including prank calls as Joe Pesci and the late Muammar Gaddafi, at the height of his infamy in the 1980s.
The laughs specifically came from Breuer’s story about how a prank phone call impersonating Gaddafi to a hardware store employee ended in a total evacuation of the store and a call to the FBI.
“I will blow up tools and hardware as long as I’m Muammar Gaddafi!” Breuer recounted in an exaggerated Middle Eastern accent.
It was a very even and dependable night of surprisingly big laughter.
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