funny stuff in January at the Pabst
Jim Gaffigan’s pale fire
Although not a household stand-up name like Jerry Seinfeld or George Carlin, Jim Gaffigan is one of the funniest, strangest, most acerbic and affable comedians on the circuit today – which is probably why the Pabst Theater took a risk in booking him as the featured act on New Year’s Eve (the December 30 date was added when demand became high) instead of some hip young musicians like last year’s party with cult rock group Cake.
Gaffigan is mostly known for his comedy concert film Beyond the Pale in which a five-minute segment on Hot Pockets alone brought the audience to convulsions. The six-foot, blond and unabashedly thick monologist, famous for his asides as a mystified or indignant audience member commenting on his performance, is an everyman who asks biting questions about religion, marriage, pop culture and of course food.
It’s been a busy couple of years for the man who sings the praises of bacon on Conan O’Brien, with further fame on television, films, commercials, and a wild webisode series (with aforementioned late-night host) called Pale Force. His roles are usually subdued or subversively close to his persona as in Super Troopers, That 70’s Show, and the Sierra Mist commercial spots. An exception to most of his guest roles may be as the boorish but loveable Andy Franklin on the TBS series My Boys and a dark role on Law and Order.
It feels like he has been ever-present and always working, guest hosting the Late Late Show, voicing cartoon characters, appearing in indie films, and silly shilling for ESPN, Rolling Rock and others. But Gaffigan has been honing his stand-up for over 15 years, and he’s finally hit that stride where most legendary stand-ups (think Bill Cosby, Steve Martin) find and expound their best bits.
A few scattered seats are still available for both shows. The New Year’s Eve show features a free champagne toast, countdown, balloons, and party favors. Rock.
Two of the stars of Drew Carey’s American adaptation of the (still popular, thanks to ABC Family’s syndication) BBC improv comedy once again bring a live version of the show to Milwaukee — January 25 and 26 at the Pabst Theater — for what has become an annual favorite.
It’s a concept and a vehicle that basically made the careers of both men, as it did for their 1998-2006 TV show co-conspirators Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops (the latter two appeared with Mochrie in the original 1988-1998 UK version) with a often silly but somehow smart use of game show format for skits using nothing much more than a few props for staging.
The best duo from both versions of the TV show was always Stiles and Mochrie. Each exchanged the role of straight man in their pairings with great comic timing and rubbery faces. Mochrie’s quiet indignation often stole the audience’s sympathy. Mochrie’s green-screen skit as a reporter being clued in by the anchors to the wild goings-on behind him was a signature piece and will likely be seen again in the traveling live version. Expect a few balding jokes as well.
Sherwood had his moment to shine next to Brady as a singing duet in faux-compilation hits made up by Stiles and Mochrie on the spot as if in an infomercial. But he often had acerbic and under-the-table humor during other segments, so you may have to watch for the double-entendre.
Audience participation in the form of shouted suggestions is a staple of the format, and a few volunteers might be called up on the stage for improv games. A few tickets are randomly available for both the Whose Line? Shows, but not very many. Keep checking for cancellations or last-minute possibilities – or at the very least tell your date that you’ll spend time together before and after, but not during.
Call the Pabst Theatre box office for details (414) 286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.com for information and ticket ordering.