Self-Flagellation for Fun and Profit

According to comic Marc Maron, comedy audiences don't have the patience they once did for neurotic comedians in the tradition of Woody Allen or Richard Lewis: Get on Prozac or get the hell out is the typical reaction, he laments. Lewis’ career slumped in the '90s during the rise of the alt-comic, a casualty of changing tastes. Not until Lewis outdid Larry David in sheer neurotic intensity as a recurring character in Curb Your Enthusiasm did he return to the public eye. Despite his late-career comeback, his act remains somewhat anachronistic, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Although the dominant mode among contemporary alternative comics is ironic detachment, Lewis is still frothing and hopelessly worked up. His public acts of self-flagellation may not resonate with the kids, but his passion is something to behold. The high-wire intensity of his stand-up and the personal depths he plumbs make for a transfixing performance, no matter how uncomfortable the revelations are. It’s not for everyone: Lewis’ act requires a commitment from the audience to go along while he explicates precisely how and why he is a piece of shit. What he reveals may be unflattering, but it’s always compelling, and resonates more than some would care to admit.
July 15-18, 8 p.m.; July 16-17, 10:15 p.m., 2010

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