Sunday, July 13, 2014

Adam Quesnell's "Can We Afford This Much Despair?"

Can We Afford This Much Despair” is a nice introduction to comedian Adam Quesnell. Not every time at bat is a home run for him, but - in keeping with the baseball theme I have apparently decided to go with for this paragraph - it’s not realistic to expect the ball to get knocked out of the park with each visit to the plate. Quesnell always connects and although some of his gags land deep in left field and some barely make it out of the infield, what really matters is that he ends up on base with each go-around.

Quesnell retells the time he did comedy at his office talent show and lost but after hearing his CD, it should come as no surprise that he didn’t walk away with a first place certificate. This is not comedy for corporate America (his setup, “So I was walking into an office building recently because I’m white…” is a perfect example) and Quesnell embraces his nonconformity. He doesn’t try to fit in to what you think a comedian should be but instead merely presents himself as himself and it works.

The result is an enjoyably skewed outlook on the adventures of ordering a sandwich online, the diamond industry (yep…most of the people in the crowd have murdered others for love), and the term “date rape.” The latter, of course, causes the audience to clench and go quiet for a moment but when you see exactly where Quesnell is going, there’s a collective sigh of relief. You can almost pinpoint the moment where the crowd realizes everything is going to be OK and laughing is once again totally allowed. 

Finding one’s self in the middle of awkward situations is a comedy staple and Quesnell’s reactions to said predicaments are unique and fresh. How he responds to his KFC biscuit situation, a Facebook event invitation gone wrong, and gearing his comedy to a PG-13 crowd are all opportunities for him to turn uncomfortable into hilarious.

It’s refreshing to spend time with a comedian who doesn’t always take the path you assume he’s heading down. Going back to the baseball metaphor, he’s a comic who can change things up and surprise you with a bunt when you think he’s winding up to take a grand slam swing. It keeps us on our toes and it’s fun to not always know from where the laughs will be coming. Nothing proves his skill at this quite like the time he found himself in the middle of an uncomfortable ice breaker game or his final bit where I have to admit I thought he was floundering. He seemed to be behind the count and I almost felt bad that his closing bit wasn’t going to land. 

Silly me. 

How quickly I had forgotten that Quesnell really knows what he’s doing and when he nails the joke, you can almost seeing him grinning as he rounds the bases, waving at the crowd, knowing what he had planned all along. To paraphrase the album title, can you afford this much laughter? I recommend adjusting your budget to make it so. 

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