Fort Worth — Kyle Kinane seemed like an odd choice to kick off a comedy series at a cerebral theater like Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth. He dresses like a lumberjack, has a beard big enough for birds to nest in, and his Twitter feed reads like missives from a reprobate on the road. And in his wanton way, he’s rather mainstream.
The audience Tuesday night was packed with ‘Phibs’ NPR-style regulars plus just a smattering of stand-up fans. Yet the audience laughed their butts off. Exiting after the show into a lobby packed with people for the second (also sold-out) show, the audience was gleeful, trading quips and feeling in general like they got big bang for their bucks. It was a brilliant choice to start the series.
The show could have been a disaster. Though Amphibian has a good bar, this was not the typical liquored up comedy club audience that comics usually see. Kinane was blown away by the facility: “Couldn’t believe it when I walked in. Look at this place. It’s clean and the people are, like, nice.” But Kinane is a heavyweight comic. His pride in his skills is fierce. Nothing he likes more than the challenge of a cold room. Over and again he extracted guffaws from the audience; hard, deep laughs that can only come from honesty.
Kinane launched with a rant on the comic strip Peanuts, I guess trying to see just how old this audience was (old, we all laughed). An extended piece on having gout (“Ordered too many foods that use ‘rodeo’ as a description. It’s not a flavor. It means ‘Hold on!’”) was a hoot. The tale of a genital exam with a remarkably savvy doctor was somehow not lewd, just very funny.
As the set unfolded, it was delightful to see Kinane’s mind at work, wandering into tangents that sometimes petered out and walking himself back out in the funniest way. “I just like to poke holes in things” he cheerfully remarked at one point. He seemed to withhold in a bit about being old enough in your 30s to know what a pure idiot you were in your 20s. Too bad I couldn’t stay for the second set when comedians traditionally drop their filters. Tales from this wanton, gout-ridden, dude’s youth is probably pee-in-your-pants funny.
Then things got dark. Kinane’s latest obsession is death, ghosts, and the afterlife. A Jack the Ripper tour in England became “a strange time for national pride” when the country’s most famous killer boasted a mere five victims. We are all appalled by the death of innocents at the hands of mass murderers, but he asks: How would it be if the victims were the KKK or Westboro Baptist? He mused on open carry—“I was confused. Thought it meant you could walk around with your beer.”—and how few brain cells open-carry bozos must have to think sticking a gun in the waistband of drawstring shorts is a good idea.
Kinane shone, no, he blazed with fire, in an extended routine on craps as a microcosm of American culture and greed. You can bet on yourself, or make a side bet on another player like horses at the track. If the player rolling is a slimeball, but has hot hands, riding their coattails is the American way. Craps is fast and loud. The dealer constantly barks commands, the players shout and egg each other on, popular side bets get huge cheers. Kinane’s vocal talents brought it all to life.
Dave Ross, the tour opener for Kinane, has a slow measured delivery that pulls you in. He made much of his nebbish looks with dark glasses and J.Crew sweater over a t-shirt. A simple chicken-fried story ended up being rife with odd annotations, and even odder tangents and regressions. Smaller wonder he’s pulled down a major MOTH storytelling award.
The comedy series at Amphibian Stage Productions continues throughout the spring with the wonderfully weird Ryan Singer on May 20 and 21, Carol Burnett-like Emily Maya Mills on June 2 and 3, and geek goddess Jackie Kashian on June 10 and 11.