Jim Breuer at Montreal Just For Laughs

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

‘Make some noise for Jim Breuer!’ But despite the stock introduction, no audience is ever going to be able to compete with this growly veteran. He’s metalhead with a gift for loud sound effects and cartoon-like vocal characterisations, so no wonder that this is a thunderous performance, with the volume ramped up to 11.

But he’s actually an engaging storyteller beneath all that cacophony. This hour-long performance comprises just three extended strands: the tale of him going to a Slayer concert as a middle-aged family man, the travails of bringing up three daughters, and a prank call he made in his youth that convinced him comedy was the way forward.

There’s something of a wobbly start before we get to this. He tries to engage with the audience in this small theatre, but seems very insecure, asking ‘how many of you know who I am? How did they sell you to me’ to silence. This is a festival audience who want a show, not market research. And his follow-up ice-breaker about the difficulties in going out to see anything when you have a family life was rather pedestrian, especially compared to a similar bit that Jerry Seinfeld does to open his show (but then it is Seinfeld, so no one’s likely to come off well by comparison).

But once we arrive at the monsters of rock concert, and his description of being trampled underfoot by marauding fans he vividly portrays as subhuman trolls, Breuer hits his stride. His enthusiasm for some of the music at the heavier end of the spectrum is infectious, while anyone of a certain age can certainly share his pain at feeling too old for the moshpit. But it’s the exaggerated depiction of fellow concert-goers that really makes it shine.

Material about his petulant teenage and pre-teen daughters will also strike a cord, and again he brings the stories to life by mocking their bored tones of voice perfectly, and giving them little catchphrases. His blunt, no-arguments style of parenting might not be fashionable, but it is funny.

There are a couple of ideas here you may have heard before – probably because they are so palpably true – but the vocal and physical characterisation of family tensions makes this a cut above. There are a couple of applause breaks which seem rather calculatedly engineered, but Brueur’s by no menas the only comic at this festival to use such reliable trickery.

Finally, the routine about a preposterous prank call the young Brueur made to a stuck-up colleague in Sears department store, when he posed as Colonel Gadaafi, demonstrates a knack of transforming what could have been a straightforward anecdote into an animated adventure the audience can join in with.

Review date: 25 Jul 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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