Brad Garrett's standup stumbles

At the River Rock Show Theatre on Friday, February 16

Brad Garrett, best known for his long-running role on Everybody Loves Raymond, started his career as a standup comic. The way it went down at the River Rock Show Theatre on Friday night, he might very well end his career that way, too. The ticket warned of “mature content”, but it was wrong on both counts. The show was immature and lacking in anything remotely resembling content.

Even bad comedians often have at least something to recommend them: a single joke, a throwaway line, a pithy observation, an insight into a shared experience. There wasn't one thing to take away from Garrett's routine. Sure, he has good stage presence and knows how to deliver a line, but that's the very least you should be able to expect from a professional comedian. Especially one who charges a goodly sum.

His “act”, such as it was, consisted of little more than riffing with the crowd, without prepared bits to fall back on. Some comics—Ryan Stiles, Mike Bullard, Don Rickles—have the ability to meld this “found material” into humour and make a cohesive show out of it. The obvious stylistic comparison to Garrett is Rickles, but whereas the octogenarian insult king knows how far to push and respects boundaries, Garrett, when faced with a fork in the road, always chose to shove it up someone's ass.

Michael Jr., the funny if unspectacular African-American Christian comedian who opened the show, finished his set by heaping praise on his buddy Garrett and bringing him to the stage. Garrett prepped us for his portion of the evening by putting his arm around Jr. and offering him up for bid. Then he warned his opening act not to steal shit backstage. What is it with sitcom sidekicks? The only difference between Michael Richards and Brad Garrett was that Garrett was at least trying to be funny. I'm not one to be overly sensitive to obvious jokes about race, gender, or sexual orientation, but my guideline is that if you're going to tread those dangerous waters, the jokes better damn well be extra funny and exhibit a level of irony that makes the material inclusive rather than exclusive.

I should add that I don't believe that Garrett meant anything he said. By all accounts, he's a prince of a guy. His act is just misguided in about every way it can be.

So where did Garrett go from there? Downhill, for one. Spotting an overweight man in the front row, Garrett told him to “try a fucking salad”. He identified one man as being so good-looking he must be gay: “By the way, your ass called. It's taking visitors.” To a Chinese man he said, “Stay off the fucking highway. I leave in eight hours. Give me a 10-minute head start.” Did I mention the show took place in Richmond?

What made it all the worse was his ignorance. Feigned ignorance is often a valuable tool in comedy, but there was no indication this wasn't the real deal. At one point, he brought up Arab terrorists to a Sikh man (huh?).

When his gags were met with the inevitable groan, he admonished, “Oh, ”˜ooh' me so you can use it tomorrow and seem witty.” No, Brad, if we used your material the next day, we'd probably get punched out.