At the Firehall Arts Centre on Wednesday, January 29. Continues until February 1.
The considerable brilliance of Bruce McCulloch’s Young Drunk Punk is that it hits all over the place demographically. Or, to put things in plain English, you don’t have to be young, a former Hüsker Dü-loving punk, or a complete drunk to get the jokes, which come in Gatling gun-like bursts, often while the sometimes-kid in the hall giddily dances to the music of surf-guitar ace Brian Connelly.
By paying attention to who was choking on their laughter loudest, you could tell a lot about the folks in the crowd.
Those who’ve survived a one-night stand totally lost it during a bit about bringing a certifiable crazy home, the fanny pack on the floor and made-from-recycled hemp condoms not nearly as heinous as watching a complete stranger brush her teeth in the bathroom while singing Fiona Apple songs.
Parents who’ve realized kids aren’t a blessing but an 18-year curse latched onto bits about how mini-van-driving dads are desperately looking for a deity darker than the devil to pray to.
Folks still in therapy over their upbringing howled at the segment where McCulloch argued that the greatest day in any child’s life is the one where he finally beats up his father.
The night was a mixture of stream-of-consciousness observations (never recycle, because the neighbours will be able to see how much you drink), social commentary (families are tyrannical organizations that you hopefully survive), and tales mined from both the comedian’s past (think young, drunk Calgary punk) and present life (pyjama-clad Beverly Hills dad).
If there was a subtheme to the night, it was that McCulloch is truly old school. This was proven by his dropping references for pop-culture trainspotters of a certain vintage—Rocket Robin Hood, Quadrophenia, and drinking and driving when it was an amusing game, as opposed to a criminal act.
His retro cred was further proven with an entirely out-of-control segment on the evolution of porno pubic hair—for those keeping score, he’s more into full-blown bushes than sideways-landing strips.
Despite not knowing how to work Twitter, McCulloch has clearly managed to stay somewhat up on current events, with Kid Rock a reccurring punchline, and the comedian noting that some Young Drunk Punk shows have been like one-woman-trainwreck Cat Power on a slow night.
This evening was anything but the second coming of Chan Marshall, which is to say that if you found yourself wiping away the tears of laughter at points, you weren’t alone. McCulloch managed to give the impression that he was at times working on the fly; after scoring a big laugh with a reference point to “lactation porn”, he gave the joke a check-mark for working.
More importantly, he pulled off the difficult trick of turning something dark and disturbing—his less-than-idyllic upbringing in Cowtown—into something triumphant. The most brilliant part of a great, comedy-gold night had him reflecting on the death of his father (who wasn’t exactly Ward Cleaver from the sound of things) from ALS. Horrible as it was, McCulloch managed to make it all seem horrifically funny.
From the rabidly enthusiastic standing ovation he received, the former Cowtown shit-disturber at some point touched everyone in the Firehall. Either that, or everyone in the place had been able to relate because they’d secretly been, at some point in their lives, young, drunk, and totally punk.