Bryan Callen's standup may be too much of a good thing
At the Comedy MIX on Thursday, January 26. Continues on January 27 and 28
Can you have too much of a good thing? Sure you can. Bryan Callen is a case in point. Performing at the Comedy MIX, the MADtv star stretched out a solid 45-minute standup act into an hour and 15 minutes. Generous, yes, but unnecessary. Going too long can’t totally negate the laughs you had along the way, but it can really diminish the overall experience.
Callen is like a more theatrical Joe Rogan, who happens to be a buddy of his. Both are tough-talking, compact, lean, mean fighting machines. A sizable chunk of Callen’s act is about physical altercations he’s been in and how to avoid such scuffles. But the drama major’s ability to act out scenes and play the fool helped raise the material beyond mere swagger. It was thuggery meets muggery.
The best comics are self-aware underdogs and outsiders. Beating up a guy the size of his kitchen may be a David and Goliath story, but Callen didn’t drop the giant through a fluky but crafty projectile shot from a distance. Callen really knows how to fight—and kiss, apparently, which, granted, is an unusual go-to move for a scrapper. Still, it was hard to side with a guy who clearly takes care of his body and wears a douchey tight shirt (even if he himself admits it’s douchey, thereby trying to distance himself from said douchiness).
His best material was when he showed his vulnerability. The contrast between his tough-guy image and his palpable fears was hilarious, as was the conviction with which he conveyed them. The fears, though varied, were all rooted in death, whether from a psycho killer who attacks public nappers, flying bears, sharks, or hornets. To see the macho dude tiptoeing in the shallow water or bugging out over a bee in the car was priceless.
Callen also jokingly calls himself one of the top bird humorists in the country. If there is such a title, my money is on him. Who else has a killer ostrich chunk? That is, the bird itself is a killer (or a “350-pound kung-fu turkey”) and the material itself is awesome—hands-down, the best avian bits I’ve ever heard. That’s not meant to be damning with faint praise, either; even outside its niche it’s still damn funny. He went on to do impressions of Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Christopher Walken as various birds to seal his ranking.
Still, a tighter set would have made all the difference. For a guy who likes to stay in shape, it’s surprising he hasn’t trimmed the fat out of his act. The show was good and worthwhile, but cut half an hour off that puppy and it would have been the lean, mean fighting machine that its creator is.