On Thursday night, Jim Breuer returned to Milwaukee for the first time (in his estimation) since the late '90s. For his fans at the Turner Hall Ballroom, the wait was well worth it.
Breuer began the 7 p.m. show talking about how well aware he is of his fans making the effort to actually come out to see live shows. He imitated the planning that would go into place for a night out, such as surveying a giant wall calendar and debating which sitter may be available. This led to his jokes about how "going out" is different in your 40s then in your 20s. He punctuated this bit with a hypothetical interaction between a child and their exhausted parent, who was still trying to recover from going out three weeks ago.
For the most part, the first half of Breuer's set talked about parenting and his family. He also spent a great deal of time talking about his love of heavy metal music. This proved to be a shared interest with a large pocket of the Turner Hall crowd. After going over similarities and comparisons between Iron Maiden and The Wiggles, Breuer told a hilarious story about going to a metal concert with his wife.
In this recollection, he explained that fans of the band Slayer were like orcs from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While mimicking being trampled and fighting off these hordes of fans, Breuer employed a clever trick in which he hit the microphone against his chest creating a smacking sound. When combined with the visual of Breuer pretending to be attacked or throwing a punch, the synchronized sound effect was very impressive and clearly something that has been well-honed with plenty of rehearsal.
Midway through the show, Breuer opened the floor to the audience, asking if anyone had come specifically to see him do one of his past characters. Immediately there were requests for Goat Boy, Jim Pesci and requests for line readings from the film "Half Baked." While Breuer was unable to remember the dialogue from that movie, he instead told a very interesting story about how the film went from a flop at the box office to a cult hit on video tape. This recollection was greatly enhanced by Breuer's impression of his co-star and fellow comedian Dave Chappelle.
Regarding Goat Boy, Breuer traced the origin of the character back to when he was high school. He explained that when he first pitched it at Saturday Night Live, it was not greeted with enthusiasm. However, one writer for the show ran with the idea and while his interpretation was substantially different that Breuer's vision, it ultimately gave life to what became a running character during his time on the show.
Breuer also explained that the first time he ever impersonated Joe Pesci, it was as a joke he played while working at Sears. This transitioned perfectly into Breuer's epic closing story about an interdepartmental prank call he made at Sears in which he pretended to be Moammar Gadhafi. In this anecdote, a misinterpretation by his co-worker turned what should have been a quick laugh into a huge ordeal.
Unlike the rest of the evening, Breuer kept breaking away from his account to reiterate that what he was telling was 100 percent true. Even though the tale was totally outlandish, Breuer provided such rich detail that it made the whole thing seem plausible. Thanks to Breuer's sincerity, this narrative felt like something out of a storytelling program such as The Moth. It was a perfect note to go out on and the show ended at 8:35 p.m., a quick night of comedy and a kind gesture to the type of fans he referenced at the beginning of the show who had sitters to pay.
Unfortunately, Breuer's only misstep of the night was quite glaring. Early on in the show, Breuer capped off one of his bits with a gay slur. He immediately explained that he likes to say that word because it is funny and doesn't mean it as any slight against homosexuals. Breuer then gave an example of saying it back in elementary school in a sports context. None of this elicited much laughter from an audience that was with on pretty much everything else he said on Thursday night. Even though his explained his interpretation and viewpoint of the word, it still made for an uncomfortable few minutes. It is a real mystery why Breuer would tread in such dangerous waters where his words could be interpreted as insensitive.
The opener for the show was Milwaukee native Johnny Beehner. After poking fun at his last name, Beehner spent his 15-minute set talking about his upcoming fatherhood and his wife's love of animals. While the material about the former seemed familiar, his stories about the family pets were delightful. Beehner displayed the confidence that has made him one of Milwaukee's most successful touring comedians and made for a solid warm-up act for Breuer.
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