Photo courtesy Joseph Scrimshaw
Joseph Scrimshaw is too smart of a comedian to settle for the easy joke, which is what makes his latest venture, How to Swear Like a MInnesotan, such a beguiling concept. Taking aim at our collective unease about our home or adopted state, Scrimshaw builds his show off a mixture of straight-ahead standup and storytelling.
Does it work? Fuck yeah.
Oh sure, there is familiar territory here: the weather, passive-aggressive activity, slow Minnesota drivers. But Scrimshaw takes the different topics into fresh territory. The weather jokes come from a bit where he "breaks up" with snow, noting all of the times the white stuff has ruined a night out, or lingered long after it has stopped being pretty and cute for the season.
There's heartwarming stuff too, such as the disappointment of visiting Sears as a youth in Brainerd, but discovering it was a Sears Outlet; or watching a gun battle outside his family's north Minneapolis home.
The show reaches its heights (some could say climax) with an extended fantasy centered on Betty Crocker as she desperately searches for satisfaction beyond what she can find in mixing baked goods together. She runs through the various mascots -- human and not -- before finding her favorite forbidden fruit. (I won't spoil the surprise, but... you'll never looked at the frozen dough section of the grocery store the same way again.)
Some of it could be developed more. I want to learn more about Hipster Paul Bunyan. Is Babe free range, dining on only on organic greens? Does Paul have tattoos? If so, how long do they take to ink? I think there's some unreached potential in the character -- and maybe even a new mascot for Uptown.
In the end, I don't know if we actually learned how to swear like a hotdish-loving Minnesotan, but I think Scrimshaw did work his way to uncovering the secrets that make us tick. Hopefully, the secret cabal that keeps our emotions tight and repressed won't find him.
IF YOU GO:
How To Swear Like a Minnesotan
7 p.m. Saturdays, March 9-23
810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.825.8949 or visit online.