I’m not really sure when I first became aware of comedian Jim Breuer; I would have to assume that it was during his stint on Saturday Night Live in the mid 90s. This was when I was in college and was when I was paying the most attention to SNL. I still think that his recurring character Goat Boy is pretty funny, albeit pretty silly.
Though I always found Breuer funny, he has slipped on and off my radar in the last 15 years or so. I didn’t necessarily make the effort to seek his material out, but if I stumbled upon one of his comedy specials I would take the time to check it out and be reminded how funny that he is. I always appreciated that Breuer was a Heavy Metal fan and would make references to Metallica and other bands during his act. Breuer is pretty good with impersonations and his James Hetfield (lead singer of Metallica) is pretty dead on. He also does an excellent Joe Pesci.
Breuer was back in my thoughts after his recent standup special on EPIX, And Laughter For All. I had caught it during a free preview weekend for the channel and was glad to see that Breuer could still make me laugh after all these years. His material may have changed as he’s gotten older – the focus is more on his marriage and children – and he may have stopped using cuss words in his act, but he was just as entertaining as ever. His bit about Slayer fans made me chuckle, as I too find them to be the scariest metal-heads ever. Those people are legitimately terrifying; sitting through a Slayer concert was one of the scariest moments of my life.
It was fortuitous, then, that while Breuer was back in my consciousness that I discovered that he was coming to town to do a show. I’ve been making more of an effort to keep track of comedians that I like and that’s become a lot easier with Twitter. The venue wasn’t one that I would typically think of for comedy, so I was glad that I was paying attention or I would have missed the show. I scooped up a ticket and Friday night I made the trip across the river to Troy, a city that I always mean to hang out in more yet rarely spend much time in.
I was curious about a few things as I made my way to the show: what kind of crowd would it be and would he have new material from the special that I had watched over the summer? I’ve learned that many comedians use a comedy special to jump start a tour, so that there winds up being a lot over overlap between the footage shown and the live act. I would have thought that it would make more sense for a special to be the culmination of a tour, but I’m not in the business (contrary to what I think) so I defer to the experts. I knew that a lot of people were fans of Breuer from his appearances on Howard Stern, which always leads to a very interesting audience. Add in his following in the metal community and I wasn’t really sure who I was going to be spending my evening with. Stereotypically, the potential for a rowdy crowd was there, though the venue wasn’t exactly conducive to that kind of show. The night became even more intriguing when I realized that my ticket was in the front row, something I try to avoid when going to see standups because I have absolutely no desire to become part of the show or to be made fun of in any capacity. That’s like my worst nightmare come true. I quickly texted a friend who is a bigger Breuer fan than I am to confirm that I had not made a strategic blunder.
He assured me that I had not – Breuer doesn’t do much crowd work and isn’t insulting when he does – and I gave a giant sigh of relief and anxiously awaited the show to start.
Jim Breuer honestly exceeded all my expectations for the night. He had new material (at least to me) and was just straight up hilarious. He kicked off the show with a discussion of the passion of sports allegiance which lead into a discussion of the search of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. Though this is obviously a sensitive subject, it was handled with respect and focused more on the irony that the suspect was discovered not by the throngs of military personnel that had swarmed the city, but by a regular citizen who may or may not have been drinking. He then regaled us with stories about taking his family on safari, fighting with his wife, meeting the lead singer of AC/DC and why he can’t own a gun. He even read us a text message fight that he and his wife had, assuming that was all real. His story about having to clean his father after the elder Breuer pooped his pants in the car, while trying to stop his young daughters from saying anything embarrassing, was the funniest section of the night – it was relatable and preserved his father’s dignity while still mining the laughs of such a terrible situation. I was alternating between laughing and gagging as he told that story and I had tear in my eyes when it was over. Just really, really funny stuff.
The crowd was enthusiastic, though respectful. It was a very interesting menagerie of people that Breuer drew; other than being very Caucasian, there was a lot of diversity in the type of people that made up the audience. They also knew better than to yell things out during the show, something that the good people of Albany struggle with. Breuer really had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand; everyone was just laughing and was eager to see what his next story would be. I appreciate a well behaved crowd, so good job Troy. My only complaint was that it was really, really warm in the venue; I was happy to finally get outside and get some cool air when the show was over.
Through it all Breuer came across as a likable and totally down to Earth kind of guy, which I think only adds to his appeal. Breuer has an everyman quality that makes his material very easy to identify with. He seemed like the type of guy that you could hang out with and have a beer with after the show. That isn’t the case with a lot of comics and I think that works to Breuer’s advantage. He also has one of the greatest laughs ever; I don’t think it is possible to hear him chuckle without laughing yourself.
I also enjoyed Breuer’s opening act, Rich Aronovitch. He took a while to warm up, but once he got going he was fairly amusing. He looked familiar to me, so I’m sure that I’ve seen him before in some capacity. His material touched on a lot of familiar topics – dating, ethnic humor, etc. – but was executed well so it was still funny. It felt like some of the crowd wasn’t quite sure what to think of him, but he generally got a warm reception after his 20 minute set was over.
I would definitely go see Breuer again if he came to town and I’ve found myself seeking out some of his specials that I had missed over the years. He said that he does new material on every tour, so I have no fear that he’ll just be rehashing old stuff if I do go to another show. I high recommend And Laughter For All, which will be released on DVD later this month (November 26th). Definitely worth checking out. I may even finally get around to watching Half Baked, the film that Breuer co-starred with Dave Chappelle that I somehow missed when it was popular. It’s a testament to his show that I am gobbling up everything that I can find about him online. He is also proof that you can be tremendously funny while keeping the material clean; I have no problems with comics who opt to swear on stage or discuss more salacious materials – most of my favorite comics work “blue” – but it is good to know that it can be done well without the language too.
I love nothing more than discovering and, in this case, rediscovering great standups and I am relieved that Breuer was as great as he was. I left the show Friday night in a tremendously good mood after laughing my head off; it was a great way to kick off the weekend. We were one of the last stops on this leg of Breuer’s tour, but I’ll be keeping my eye peeled to see when he’ll be touring again. If you like his specials, he’s absolutely worth going to see live.