That's Absurd

Whither the observational comic? These days we associate observational comedy with 1980s hacks in cheap ties telling bad jokes about airline food. Maybe the grim early days of Comedy Central, when the station aired endless hours of would-be Seinfelds, has singed the image of the dreaded red brick wall on the psyches of contemporary comedians. Up-and-comers are now much more likely to go surreal rather than broad, avoiding ginning up laughs from life’s little foibles. Jake Johannsen has been performing long enough to have taken to the stage in ties he’d rather forget, but his absurd sensibility bridges the two eras. His bits begin with a reference to a common aspect of modern life, the time-honored approach of observational comic. But from these (sometimes) conventional topics — paying bills, dating a vegetarian, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence — Johannsen leaves the beaten path and keeps wandering until the subject is nearly unrecognizable. Though his delivery is more even-handed, Johannsen’s appreciation of the incongruous details of daily life brings to mind Eugene Mirman, as does his willingness to take things to increasingly ridiculous extremes.
Nov. 25-27, 2011

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