Brian Posehn: Farty hesher comedy galoot
There are gifted physical comics, and then there are the dudes who make a good set great just by virtue of looking ungainly and weird. Brian Posehn is revered in comedy circles for his affably lumbering stoner/geek/metalhead persona, his contributions to the Comedians of Comedy tour and The Sarah Silverman Program, and his tendency to deal in a rarefied, top-caliber juvenilia. (Posehn's last album was given the obvious yet somehow understated title Fart and Wiener Jokes, which is sort of like calling Black Sabbath's Master of Reality something like Guitar Riffs and Ominous Lyrics.) But Posehn earned a lot of his early adherents through his supporting appearances on the legendary sketch-comedy institution Mr. Show, and some of his funniest moments simply relied on standing around and fulfilling the important job of looking like Brian Posehn.
His Thursday night show at Acme, the first of a stand that lasts through Saturday night, displayed that particular skill. In a set heavy on material from a year-old album, getting to see him deliver it in person gave twice-heard jokes enough added gawky-homunculus presence to make it feel like this was the real intended context for them.
Throwing around terms like "ungainly" and "gawky" might seem a bit uncalled for, but mostly because Posehn does a much more expert job at describing just how damned odd he looks. (One memorable self-assessment: "I look like a bunch of farts put on a man costume.") Much of Posehn's comedy hinges on this particular conceit, your classic comedy tactic of turning a curse into a strength, whether he's running down a list of innocuous things he'd be socially ostracized for doing because of his looks (talking to children; digging holes in the middle of the night; walking into a club's VIP section and shouting "Someone's gettin' fucked tonight!") or taking the premise of scaring off burglars with a samurai sword to increasingly uncomfortable conclusions (nude, screaming, wearing a baby mask). Stomping his 6'6" frame around as a generous gut peeked out from under an Iron Maiden t-shirt, he stalked across the stage in a way that made it look way too small for him.
While his best material focused on his own weirdo-galoot appearance, Posehn's personal pop-culture obsessions kept the set multi-dimensional, with the inevitable forays into metal, horror films, and geek-culture touchstones. But where your typical second-rate panderers wander into easy "Hey, what if Iron Man got a boner in his suit?" turf and get mired in there pretty deep, Posehn comes up with contexts for once-obvious targets that makes them idiosyncratic and unique--like how yelling "Slayer!" during any gay sex act immediately turns it into a heteronormative, dudes-hangin'-out moment ("It's a bro job"), or his plans to protect his family during the zombie apocalypse (two Baby Bjorns and a quick demise), or the inexplicable, roundabout way playing with his Star Wars action figures in the bathtub as a kid led him to discover what masturbation was.
Robin Van Swank
The best part is that for a comedian who apparently relies on telling his audience just how much he realizes how unappealing he's supposed to be, Posehn was open enough to the crowd that he invited fans to hang out with him after the show and get high in the parking lot. He laid down just two conditions: they bring the weed, and nobody asks him to pass on their message to Sarah Silverman about how hot they think she is.
Brian Posehn appears at Acme Comedy Co. on Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.
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