Joey Grihalva

Swardson Brings Laughter and Peace to the Middle West

Far from Hollywood, the comedian delivers a set worthy of his Midwestern roots.

By - Sep 16th, 2014 12:45 pm
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Nick Swardson. Photo from Joe Dobberke's Facebook.

Nick Swardson. Photo from Joe Dobberke’s Facebook.

I logged into Facebook a few months ago and saw comedian Nick Swardson (fake) licking my college friend’s nipple. In between stand up gigs and supporting roles in Adam Sandler movies, the St. Paul, Minnesota native makes time for trivia nights at bars in his home state, one of the many reasons he is beloved. At the Pabst Theatre on Friday, Swardson watered his Midwest roots. It was the third stop on his 42-city “Taste It Tour,” the kind of cold and soggy night that reminded him he’s far from Hollywood.

Best known as a bisexual rollerskating prostitute on the cult TV show Reno 911!, Swardson first grabbed my attention with hilarious roles in Grandma’s Boy and Art School Confidential. A timely opening bit about weird characters at the Grand Avenue Mall locked in the local crowd. His anecdotes about hanging out with Aaron Rodgers did more for Wisconsin-Minnesota relations than, well, I don’t know what.

Deepak Sethi, Swardson’s opener, nailed a well-researched “West Allis girls are easy” joke, but the headliner’s natural Midwest charm carried the night. He stumbled once or twice in an otherwise solid set of original material. Swardson’s short lived Comedy Central sketch show, Pretend Time, and main role in Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star may not have been commercial successes, but the guy has got the goods.

At his best, Swardson shows shades of Will Ferrell during his Saturday Night Live days. The high energy set was punctuated by bits including the first person to experience brain freeze (done in a British accent, simply because “It’s fun for me to do”), a story about being attacked by his mother’s cat, and a strong closer about sleeping next to Liv Tyler on a flight.

Swardson may be approaching forty, but he still sports a backwards cap, jeans and t-shirt. His material still includes the occasional diarrhea and/or fart joke. For some comedians, change is slow, but it might be for the best. The standing ovation that Swardson received Friday would attest to that, kicking off what looks to be an excellent Fall comedy season at the Turner/Pabst/Riverside.

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