Kurt Braunohler: Here's Where It Gets Weird... | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte, London

Kurt Braunohler: Here's Where It Gets Weird...

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Thearte, London

America’s Kurt Braunohler has something of a reputation for absurdist comedy which is not entirely ill-deserved given his oddball collaborations with Kristen Schaal and stunts such as paying a skywriter $4,000 to spell out in the air above Los Angeles: ‘How do I land?’

Stand-up’s a newer form to him, and in his London solo debut, he’s more conventional than you might expect – even though there are plenty of delightfully idiosyncratic touches. But the gag he had written at 10,000ft is slightly apposite, since making his anecdotes land with a solid punchline is sometimes elusive.

Take the examples of his routine about scoring MDMA, a decade or two too older than he ought to be for such shenanigans, or shopping for a double-ended dildo for a comedy sketch. There are a smattering of funny self-deprecatory comments, but both stories cry out for a stronger angle or killer payoff. Ditto his regaling of the one and only bar fight he was in. It’s described with craft and wit, not least in how ill-equipped mentally and physically he was for conflict, yet – like his punches – fails to connect squarely enough for a knockout blow.

Nevertheless, it perpetuates the idea of him as a maladroit, arrested-development idiot (well, he was breast-fed till the age of five, he tells us) always getting into awkward scrapes. None is more cringeworthy than his audition with Sacha Baron Cohen for the role of an assistant in Bruno, as his lie that he’s a fluent German speaker becomes painfully exposed. Seems that Britain’s master prankster does not take too well to being spoofed himself.

It’s one of several episodes where his career lands him in trouble, whether appearing in the awful-sounding hidden camera show Prankville, or scrawling notes around his flat with the comedian’s compunction to take things too far. Yet he’s at his dumbest – and funniest – when trying to deal with everyday life; as his hilarious opening gambit about his confusion operating a washing machine so definitively proves.

Braunohler celebrates his stupidity with a buoyant energy that enlivens the anecdotes, and adds the occasional quirky and pithy turn of phrase to perfectly sum up the situation. An offhand aside describing the town of Portland was particularly delightful – simultaneously ludicrous and vividly descriptive.

It’s an example of his screwed-up take on the world at its best; because Braunohler tends to be better at putting a daffy spin on the everyday, rather than simply being another of the massed ranks of stand-ups charmingly recounting their own foolish behaviour.

Review date: 29 Jan 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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