Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.”
Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.
So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!
The title of Kurt Braunohler’s debut album, How Do I Land?, comes from the hilarious and absurd stunt he pulled off this past March, for which he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 so he could enlist a pilot to skywrite “HOW DO I LAND?” across the Los Angeles sky. As Braunohler explains on the album, he believes inserting stupidity and absurdity into daily life for their own sake can make the world a better place, if only for a short time. Going so far as to say this premise is his “purpose as a comedian,” it’s quite clear that these are not hollow words, but rather something of a guiding vision for Braunohler’s onstage persona.
What How Do I Land? lacks in structure and cohesion, it makes up for in nuance and idiosyncrasy. Throughout the album, Braunohler swings between polished, well-prepared bits and rougher, more free-flowing moments, like his recitations of tweets no one liked or his re-tellings of phrases he signed in others’ books at Barnes & Noble. These moments aren’t immaculately constructed, memorized verbatim “bits,” but rather unique vehicles that showcase Braunohler’s equally unique perspective.
To some extent, comedians who deal in absurdity can’t be confined to the classic five-minute chunk that continuously builds to an ultimate crescendo (think George Carlin or Bill Burr) because, by absurdity’s very nature, the medium defies that conventionally agreed-upon structure. The tactic would only fail if the material weren’t funny or memorable. Braunohler, however, has a tone and delivery that infuse much of his material with a singular and compelling feel. He often comes off as a nice albeit conceited guy who’s going to dictate his musings at you, regardless of what you want.
That said, Braunohler’s comedy doesn’t entirely eschew punchlines or abstain from storytelling. One of the highlights of the album comes when Braunohler makes a fool of himself by lying that he can speak German when auditioning next to Sacha Baron Cohen for a role in Borat. The seven-minute track is a straight-up story with no pretense; the only absurdity is that which Braunohler can’t help but inject into his own offstage life. Other moments scattered throughout How Do I Land? deal in observations, like how “people bring their fucking A-game to public bathrooms” or that one should never get into a race with someone driving a PT Cruiser “because that guy has got nothing to lose.”
Quality material and a distinct perspective are without question the bedrock of worthwhile comedy, yet few comedians can put on a good show without a bit of showmanship. Braunohler’s not Chris Rock pacing the stage or Brian Regan making faces, but he’s clearly aware of how to use his tools, slowing down his cadence, raising his voice, sitting in those awkward moments. The end result is an album that does justice to its author: 52 minutes of consistently entertaining, unique and intelligent comedy that serves as a faithful portrayal of the voice behind the mic.
Braunohler recently moved his Hot Tub with Kurt & Kristen from NYC to LA. For other great Los Angeles shows, check out:
Thursday, September 19 I An Intimate Evening with Billy Crystal and David Steinberg – You loved him on Saturday Night Live. You ached for him in When Harry Met Sally. And you thanked him for being so funny during those long nights of the Academy Awards. Billy Crystal is simply one of the funniest comedians we know. Join us for an intimate evening with Billy Crystal and fellow great comedian David Steinberg, as they look at Billy’s extraordinary career, and mark the milestone of Crystal’s turning 65.
Saturday, September 21 I Jail Guitar Doors Comedy Night – Matt Dwyer is hosting a fundraising night of comedy to benefit Jail Guitar Doors USA. JGD-USA is charity founded by musicians/activists Billy Bragg and Wayne Kramer based in Los Angeles which provides musical instruments and opportunities to help rehabilitate prisoners. This event features performances by some of today’s leading comics to raise funds for in-prison music programs and instruments, including outreach to women’s prisons as well youth camps for underaged offenders. Wayne will provide the evening’s music.
Saturday, September 21 I The GI’s of Comedy for Greater LA Fisher House – FREE admission for Veterans and Active Duty US Military and one guest with proper I.D. presented at the door. (Please bring your DD214, Department of Veterans Affairs Patient ID or Active Duty Military ID.) Actress Penelope Ann Miller star of Carlito’s Way and recently Mistresses on ABC will be MC’ing the event!