That nervous edge, those bugged-out eyes, the gestures and wordless actions -- they infuse a geeky, twitchy jolt of humor into almost everything comedian Jake Johanssen says.
It is surely what Johannsen -- who performed Friday night at Turner Hall Ballroom -- says, but just as much, it's how he says it.
Unlike, say, a Mitch Hedberg, whose jokes have entered the daily banter of my life -- and countless others' -- I can't recite a singe Johanssen quip on demand, despite being a long-time fan. No, what I remember best about Johanssen is that ball of nervous energy waiting to explode on-stage. But he never does, instead he simmers, keeping his audience in stitches.
Most of us first met comedian Jake Johannsen on late night television, thanks especially to David Letterman who once called the lanky comic his favorite comedian, and often brought him onto the show. Forty-six times, to be exact.
But Johannsen, 55, has also done a Netflix special and has been all over Comedy Central and HBO.
On Friday night at Turner, Johannsen riffed on Wisconsin topics -- the Iowa City native said he lived in Wisconsin for a time, but did not elaborate -- like the Mars Cheese Castle (which he saw during his drive up from O'Hare), the weather, his now Mr. Magoo-like driving skills and, during a discussion of AARP, the Fonz, which led an audience member to crack open an exchange with Johannsen about the Bronze Fonz.
But most of Johannsen's material focused on aging: being stalked by the American Association of Retired Persons upon turning 50, having a colonoscopy, parenting his 11-year-old daughter, relationships, social media.
While much of the material is NSFW, Johannsen, who performed for a little over an hour, held the crowd rapt and, at time, in tears from laughing so hard.
Opening the show was Wisconsin native Andi Smith, who has been on "Last Comic Standing," a Wanda Sykes special and other television shows, mined similar territory -- parenthood (she has a 3-year-old) and relationships (mostly gone wrong, it seems) -- but with an edgier vibe and and a more bitter schtick. Her roughly 20-minute set was sharp and biting and thoroughly funny.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.