Myq Kaplan's smart standup has broad appeal

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At the Comedy MIX on Thursday, October 11. Continues October 12 and 13

Silly intelligence is tough to pull off in comedy. Usually, it’s one or the other, and any hint of smarts is used to hit you over the head with opinions or to ridicule perceived stupid people. With such an approach, you’re bound to lose a portion of the audience with a different world-view.

There are a few, though, who can walk the tightrope of giving a bar crowd solid and consistent laughs while not compromising their own education or beliefs. Local standup Charlie Demers is a good example, with his subversively intellectual material, making larger points through the guise of lower-brow gags.

And Myq Kaplan, who performs at the Comedy MIX this weekend, is another. The small and slender, self-deprecating vegan put on a meaty show on October 11, with brilliantly crafted jokes and self-referential meta-comedy whose primary purpose was to delight, but whose not-too-distant secondary purpose was surely to drive home pet issues. Along the way he proves that not all vegans are humourless food Nazis, that the religious argument against homosexuality is full of holes, and that the TSA’s war on terror is misguided. Only you’re laughing too hard to fully comprehend you’ve just been hit with stealth jokes intended to plant the seed of wisdom.

Too many comics worry about what an audience may or may not understand. The result is LCD comedy with a superficial set filled with pop-culture references. But Kaplan isn’t afraid to show off his fancy book learnin’. Whether it’s top-notch wordplay or jokes on grammar, the presidential line of succession, or math, Kaplan will do the bit and then explain what just happened for anyone whose head it might have sailed over.

The best teachers make learning fun. Not that the stage should ever be a classroom, but a spotlight and a microphone are terrible things to waste. Why not impart a little knowledge and enlightenment when you can, especially if you have the ability to make it palatable?

Don’t get the wrong impression, though. Kaplan’s set may have been a paean to nerd culture (culminating in a deconstruction of time travel in Back to the Future), but his appeal is across the board. His network TV credits alone prove that—he’s guested most of the late-night talk shows and was a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. But as with most comedians, the best way to experience him is in the context of a live venue where you can watch him work the crowd and stretch his comedic legs.

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