Joel McHale: Letdown at Standup

 Yesterday my husband and I went to the Uptown Theater in Kansas City to see my TV crush live in the flesh.  Joel McHale is the host of the E! clip show “The Soup”, one of my weekly must-watch programs.  Ah, there’s nothing like waking up on a lazy Saturday morning, heading downstairs in your PJs with a bowl of cereal and caffeinated beverage of choice, and starting the day with a fresh Soup.  I like the show so much that my husband used it as a way to sell me the idea of getting a bigger TV–“Just think of how big Joel McHale’s face will be” he said.  And I caved.  Now my cable-less friends gather at our house regularly for their Soup fixes–his show has been a foundation for many a fun gathering.

So for months I’ve been anxiously awaiting his arrival at a theater near me.  My husband was going to get me a Joel McHale t-shirt for Christmas (which they don’t really sell online) and found out he was going to be in the area around Valentine’s day and (bless his heart) thought we could drive down and make a weekend of it.  And a fine weekend it was/is.  However, the main event, the standup comedy of Mr Tall Dreamy McHale, was average at best.  Sure it was great to see him live, I nearly freaked out when he took the stage–we had very good seats–but then he started talking, and it went downhill from there.  What Joel McHale is is a good looking, extremely talented presenter with great comedic timing.  He has a fantastic voice, knows just when to pause for effect, and has the potential to make us fall off our chairs laughing but still hang on long enough to further admire his boyish good looks and mesmerizing eyes.  So where did he fall short?  Material. 

Joel started off the show by telling his tale of freaking out while his plane descended towards the Kansas City airport–“Oh my God we’re GOING to LAND in a CORNFIELD!”.  This brought out polite laughter from the crowd of his Midwestern fans, none of us thinking it was at all problematic let alone catastrophic to land in a cornfield.  Shrug.   Then he tells us how he has no cue cards, usually his job is so easy “Paris Hilton bla bla whore”, but here he is out on his own (disclaimer?).  It’s OK, I get it, you’re flying solo, that’s cool, now let’s see what you’ve got!  From there he talks about Seattle professional sports teams, ties it in with KC sports a little, but left me wondering who in this crowd of mostly girls and gays (and the best husbands/boyfriends ever) cares at all about Seattle sports?  Then I spaced out a little, trying to figure out why he didn’t look the same way in jeans as I’d imagined him to, and when I came to he was talking about his son.  Cute.  For a little while, ’till he kept repeatedly calling him a “retard”.  Really cheap laughs.  Then it was his other son, his dad, his mom, his mother-in-law, and even threw in a story on how a bee stung his pregnant wife’s vag.  Most of the women, myself included, were too freaked out to laugh at anything else for a while. 

The highlight was when he detailed which celebrities he’d pissed off from The Soup.  He rattled off some of the lines, most created by a team of writers I presume, which made the celebs angry.  Funny.  And he did have some good lines thrown in throughout.  However, his career as a standup is kind of like when some goofy actor tries to sing or some goofy singer tries to act.  We all know Jessica Simpson wouldn’t be famous if she first tried to make it as an actress.  And it’s fine, but head to head with other comics, this guy would suck.  The guy opening for him was way funnier.  And I’d watched a lot of Demitri Martin this week so perhaps I had the bar set too high.  But all in all, I was disappointed as my hero seemed to better resemble the brainless pretty people he made fun of on the show rather than cool, intelligent, high-brow comedian.  It’s better I know the truth anyway.  I’ll just have to go back to having a TV crush on Rachel Maddow.

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