Sunday night was a holiday to most fathers. But today is the real Father's Day for Jake Johannsen. He didn't spend the official holiday with his daughter because he was busy entertaining a room full of people at Hilarities on Sunday. And I do mean "full". So yesterday was a travel day for him and today he is somewhere in Johannsenville celebrating what can only be described as being a VERY cool dad.
The show Sunday started off with the soon-to-be-married Mr. Dan Brown as our host. Dan was good. As a host/opener you can't delve too deeply into anything and Dan kept it light, quick and moving along. That is not always the case with openers.
Some comedians don't really seem to understand that role and it can distract from the flow of the night. Touching on subjects like working the WWE into your new marriage and the possible downfalls of theme weddings, he did a good job of getting things going. Dan fit right in.
Guess who else fit right in? Surprise guest Marc Jaffe popped in for a quick set.
Again, perhaps the name is not familiar but he wrote for a show called "Seinfield" or something in the 90's so he probably didn't just wander in off of East 4th street to perform for his supper. The first joke was not a hit with me and I admit, I wondered if maybe his funny times had passed him by. But I was pleasantly wrong. The rest of the jokes were all good and worthy of his Seinfeldian pedigree. So it proved to be a very worthwhile detour. Pointing out some common ground between Jews and Canadians and tying in how it pertains to his fathering of three daughters was a fun little trip worth taking.
I learned historical facts about religious conversion and the intricacies of foreign board games. I was left wondering where I could see more of this guy's stand-up. I genuinely enjoyed his no-frills delivery and conversational casualness. It lets his writing do the work.
Then feature performer Mike Head came out and changed the indoor skyline a bit. Mike is tall. Mike is black. These two things made him different than almost everyone there. So naturally, he played on that. And he played well. Mike knows how to read a crowd. I don't know if he was that savvy on Thursday-Saturday nights or if he evolved his set as he gathered more info throughout the weekend but neither would surprise me. Because you can tell Mike is a smart guy right from the start.
After all, he instinctively knew where we all wanted to eat after the show. That borders on magic. We saw Mike on the Alan Cox Comedy Tour and he was in a much different setting at that show compared to Sunday night. Let it be known that Mike Head is a versatile comedian that varies his style to fit a show/room/crowd. Some comics attract a certain type of audience and others can make a room adjust to their style. Some try to force what they can't pull off. Mike just rolls with it. Easygoing and with a very relaxed flow, Mike Head easily related to a crowd that mostly differed from him. And he made everyone in the room laugh. An admitted hater on social media, he gave an interesting perspective on what he "likes" and why. Believe me when I say he won't be hired by the Akron Zoo as a spokesperson anytime soon. He definitely chose the right career path by not being a teacher. So go see Mike Head or he may tase us all.
This guy has jokes for whatever you need, man!
So then, out came Jake Johannsen. Wearing an outfit that said comfort as much as it said "whatever, how many times have you been on Letterman?",
he began by pointing out the obviousness of some sayings like "you can't win them all". This is a running theme throughout his show. Weaving in and out just enough to occasionally remind us that this material is not just funny. It all ties together. Perfectly.
I am pretty old. So I have been aware of Jake for decades. Often, with other comics (especially ones from the 80's/90's), there are big changes in their material and delivery over such a long career. Dice Clay, Sam Kinnison, Bobcat Goldthwait and others who found schticky success with gimmicks in the same era are all old news now. At least as far as what they did back then. Not here though. Nope. I distinctly remember exactly what Jake Johannsen was like in the early 90's and I saw that same comedian Sunday. And I mean that with the utmost respect and awe.
There is absolutely nothing stale or dated about his delivery or material.
He just gets better and better at what he does. He was smart enough to cultivate a comedic style that would never go out of, uh...style from the very beginning. And the dividends are obvious.
The material is an ever-changing mix of experience and self-observation and the delivery has a timeless feel. Once you catch a full set, you then will know Jake whenever you hear him after that because he has a distinct "sound" or pattern. Much like a great band, Jake can release album after album of what is basically the same style of comedy, via the same patented delivery system and comedy fans will likely never tire of it. That's because Jake has one key element to his comedy...he's funny as shit.
No gimmicks. Just a really funny guy.
After all, if your style gets you forty-five appearances on Letterman alone, it definitely ain't broke so why would he fix it? I had very high expectations going in Sunday night and I left very happy.
It was a great show and the packed house clearly loved it as much as we did. Covering a variety of topics like Alzheimer's, politics, fatherhood and marital mathematics, the perspectives are always original and the jokes are fun and surprising. It all combines to make a great show that has no down time.
After the show we were lucky enough to speak with Jake a little and that was not a disappointment either. Unassuming and very nice is a solid description of Jake Johannsen. Not "meet and greet" nice.
Genuinely nice. Jake Johannsen has been around a long time.
He is funnier now than ever. Go see him or download his work.
You won't be disappointed either.
Happy Father's Day to Jake and his family today from Comedic-CLE!!!