Braunohler Lands Stand-up Craft
Improv-trained comedian makes a mark with unconventional album, distributed uncoventionally
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
A product of People’s Improv Theater in New York, Kurt Braunohler has released his first stand-up album, “How Do I Land?” as the first and only comedy album on the Portland, Oregon-based Kill Rock Stars label, which specializes in alternative rock bands.
It’s an appropriate pairing as Braunohler’s twisted sense of humor is unique among stand-up comedians and shares the artistic sensibilities of alternative music.
Long ago, when asked by The PIT to give his take on the classic “Aristocrats” joke for a show full of different performers’ takes on that, Braunohler donned a lab coat and delivered the filthy scatological events that take place in the joke as the aftermath described in a coroner’s report – a truly brilliant idea.
He’s still carried that same off-center point of view into a much more genial presentation more within a stand-up comedy format.
In “Airports,” tackling the standard stand-up subject matter, Braunohler suggests listeners (and his live audience in Portland) instead of asking for the pat down, meekly request the “free body massage” … when they go through airport security to baffle the TSA staff. “If we all go out and do this, that will end.” He might very well be right. “Airports” also manages to find another novel take on its topic – observations about how airports lack the grandeur of train stations.
But anyway. Braunohler proves adept at using certain tones and motifs in constructing what he says, such as Todd Barry-like low droning, or super high angry screeching. He turns these on with an abrupt element of surprise, as when he suddenly blurts out, “Also, fuck you, biscotti! [then sing-songing], fuck you! … chew on rocks and nurse mouth wounds for weeks? No! No I don’t! … But people say you gotta soak it in coffee first. Fuck … your food! That requires me to give it a hot bath before it’s edible.”
Braunohler may not even be conscious of where he’s gotten the tones in his palette, but he does use them for his own purposes. Telling a story about a failed audition for the sidekick role in Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Dictator” movie, Braunohler intones nonsense syllables in a way that sounds similar to Patton Oswalt, when he uses that motif in a piece.
Oswalt and Barry are certainly good company for any comedian who wants to reach alternative music fans, and Braunohler has a sensibility and material that makes the distribution channel he’s using a good fit. He ought to follow in their footsteps – the integrity of Braunohler’s material equals what Oswalt and Barry showed in earlier efforts. Although his reaches for something different (like the “Bunk” TV game show on IFC) have yet to break through, he is bound to be discovered by larger audiences with “How Do I Land?”
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