Monday, April 15, 2024

Sweetly Evil

It takes a special talent to joke about child abuse and slaughtering baby seals and still come off as so darn huggable. Joel

McHale, the mischievous host of the scathing pop commentary show “The Soup” has that talent, and he demonstrated it in droves Saturday night to a packed house at Hard Rock Live. After all, following his topical opening line – “Who would like to see a picture of my dick?!” – many women raised their hands.

McHale’s endearing style came off all the more desirable after sitting through his opening act for the evening, an abrasive and unlikable personality named Brooks McBeth. Unlike McHale’s, McBeth’s murder and bestiality jokes just came off as lewd and tacky. He had zilch in the way of transitions, he took his audience for granted by explaining his jokes after he said them and he pandered to the crowd with simple, clichéd observations about relationships (“A G-spot is like a perfect credit score – we know it exists but we’ll never get it” was the most sophisticated line of his act).

That said, McBeth was a more accessible comedian than the headliner, and I’m in the minority opinion about his act. McHale proved more divisive, if only because his material was more insular and spoke to a smaller segment of the audience. Much of his act was spent skewering his fellow E! personalities and shows, roasting the Kardashians and some of their less-famous reality-TV cohorts. If you don’t know McHale’s day job, or you don’t watch bad TV, you may have felt left out – uninvited to a party you paid good money to attend.

But McHale was not limited to insider TV humor, and by the time he steered his act around to his personal life, the more universality it achieved. He has a storyteller’s knack for hilarious monologues on single subjects, namely his father’s debilitating cheapness and obsession with Costco and his son’s dichotomy between “genius” and “retard.” He also proved more than sufficient at crowd work, riffing on a front-row, bling-donning baller who looked so much like a “Jersey Show” character that he could have been a plant.

It comes down to this: “The Soup” is a cult show on a lousy network, and the Hard Rock Live show is a mainstream venue populated in part by patrons who appeared to have never seen a McHale program. He performed as well as can be expected at reconciling these two audiences; the newbies enjoyed some of it, while McHale’s fans had a winning 90 minutes.

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