Oct 11, 2010

Joel McHale at the Cobb Energy Center

Being funny is something that just about anybody who works hard enough can accomplish. Think about it. If you are my age or around it, then Pauly Shore has made you laugh at one point or another. If you spend enough time honing a comedic persona, sooner or later you will become somewhat talented at the craft of telling jokes.

Joel McHale is a hardworking guy, no doubt. But he has something that a lot people much funnier than he is do not have: likeability. He's the friend who, in high school, could call the prom queen a disgusting mongoloid and end up going home with her at the end of the night...and get tired of her.

McHale is frustratingly adept at being a likeable jerk, and the longer that he's in the spotlight, the farther he tries to rib the audience and then subsequently pull them back in. However, it's not like he's a comic who tries to push the envelope - much of the time his comedy is little more than PG-13.

It's that he's caught in a space where he has to try really hard to put people off. He's a good-looking dude, but that's not really a hindrance or a source of contention for anyone looking to criticize him, because he doesn't even address his own good looks, even ironically. It's something that really attractive female comedians do, more often than not, because they seem to feel a need - understandably - to address their looks so they can get on to the funny stuff.

Joel McHale is able to glide along on his personality, and I mean that in the best possible way. He has perfected the ability to say absolutely heinous shit to celebrities' faces and have them love him for it.

It's not like they have a choice. Joel McHale is the Jon Stewart of the celebrity world, a merry prankster who, on the surface, seems to denounce and deride his own existence but in reality takes the necessity of the public's need for something like The Soup very seriously. Anyone who lashes out at him or The Soup looks deservedly stupid and callous, despite the fact that what Joel McHale says on a weekly basis would drive seventy-five percent of the television-watching public to wracking sobs, if not in front of friends, at least in the privacy of their homes (while probably watching The Soup.

In seeing him live, it's obvious that he's somewhat new to the stand-up game, but that doesn't matter. Watching him perform is like watching a really excited friend hold the room at a party in the palm of his hand for an hour-and-a-half. His live persona is very similar to the one we see on The Soup, but somehow he's able to string together a collection of high energy jokes into a solid night's worth of entertainment.

And the thing is, it's mostly him. It's not really the writing, and that may sound kind of mean, but it's really not. McHale, like I alluded to above, is able to carry a room on his charm and wit, which is not something I could imagine most comedians could do on any given night, especially early on in their careers. He's able to pull it off as though he's barely trying, even though we all know he's one of the hardest-working entertainers around. Standing up in front of people and making them care, making them want you to like them, rather than the other way around, is nigh impossible. And Joel McHale makes his audiences feel like the prom queen who can't believe she's about to go home with the class clown. It's almost like John Hughes was right all along.

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