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Al Lubel is Mentally Al

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

See Al Lubel once and you’ll never forget his name. Not because he’s the most astounding stand-up you’ll ever see, but because he hypnotically drills it into your head, frequently repeating the pleasingly rolling vowels in a lulling rhythm.

It’s an unusual opener for an unusual comic. This grizzled American lays his psyche on the line in an hour of introspective comedy-as-therapy, informed by the conversations he’s had with his shrink.

His issues all stem – surprise! – from his overbearing Jewish mother, so overly protective that she insisted he sleep in the dead centre of the bed for fear he’d fall out. But he learned how to manipulate that stifling concern to his own advantage, getting his meals in bed and even the TV channel changed by playing on her maternal instinct to do all she could for her little treasure. In consequence, he became fearful that she would die and leave him, and developed OCD-like behaviour to to protect her.

And when this cosseted Only Child went out into the real world, he found it not quite so accommodating, and has wound up single, poor (despite his comedy winning him $100,000 in a televised talent contest, he still lives in a rented room the size of a jail cell) and screwed up by anxieties and egotism.

It’s a deep show, but also a silly one, and most definitely distinctive. Lubel couldn’t take us into the dark realms of oedipal fantasies had he not already endeared himself to us. The knowingly preposterous repetition of his own name and some exquisitely sharp gags about his predicament – whether now, as a child, or in his brief career as a lawyer – ensure that we do like him, while his cool, relaxed demeanor reassure us that all will be OK.

Parts of the hour, particularly the latter half, are more odd than hilarious, as Lubel tries to grips with the more difficult parts of his personality. But if a fringe festival isn’t the place to explore this, where is? And he largely keeps it on the right side of uncomfortable, releasing any tension with a well-timed witticism or an acknowledgement, maybe in song, of just how weird this is all getting. Bold and unusual stuff, indeed.

Review date: 5 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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