Ari Shaffir doesn't miss a chance to make his audience squirm
At the Comedy MIX on Thursday, March 29. Continues to March 31
Comedy is a lot of things to a lot of people. If your idea of funny doesn’t include jokes about abducted children, diarrhea gone horribly awry, or an anal-sex miscue with a twist, chances are you won’t like Ari Shaffir.
Or maybe you will. Who knows? The 37-year-old American standup, playing the Comedy MIX through Saturday (March 31), voices his darkest thoughts and shares squirm-inducing stories from his personal life to great comedic effect. His conversational approach gives the impression he’s just kibitzing with his best friends, and who doesn’t have a friend who’s always saying inappropriate things? The illusion is furthered as he casually mentions the full names of an old high-school friend, teacher, and unknown one-armed comic who bugs him, like we know who he’s talking about. It’s true: the devil is in the details.
When he performed a shorter set with the Nasty Show back in June, Shaffir told his public-shitting story to decent laughs, but nothing special. At the time, I wrote that it would probably go over better in a club than the theatre he was performing in. Nailed it. Because on Thursday night, in the cozy confines of a comedy club, it killed. Sounds disgusting—and it is—but it’s tempered by the fact that he’s sharing one of his biggest embarrassments with us more than revelling in the shock. The audience on Thursday was hanging on his every stomach cramp, hoping beyond hope he’d make it, but knowing full well that wasn’t going to happen—otherwise there’d be no story. At the point of fecal explosion, he got a well-deserved applause break.
A recurring theme was his immaturity. Don’t ask the man-child about equity and don’t assume he’ll settle down soon and start a family. When not talking about sex and his bowels, as many teenage boys do, Shaffir railed against children, equating them with the worst type of STD. He sees his friends with kids and concludes they’re just too much work. The effect on the parents is like 18 years of heroin abuse: “I know it’s not all bad, but you look horrible.” That’s a hilarious observation, even if it hit a little too close to home.
It’s quite possible the former Jewish seminary student is just acting out after years of heavy and serious study of the Torah. Whatever the case, it’s working. But as he inches his way toward 40, it would be even better to see him raise the bar and put his intellect to work on more elevated material—or if that’s too much to ask, at least some philosophical dick jokes.