It’s hard to say exactly how Brent Weinbach — one of the Bay Area’s comic talents truly deserving of wider recognition — is funny. His shtick is inconceivably awkward, his delivery of punchlines uber-droll, his voice that of an unbearably uncharismatic statistics professor, with all the stage presence of a To Catch a Predator star.
Even Weinbach himself can’t describe why we’re laughing, as he did before one bit Friday night at Punchline. Here was a svelte, non-confrontational vegan doing his best smoov’-as-silk B-boy impression, describing a girl with curves to kill in an urban-Brooklyn accent, his stature blatantly betraying his every word. “I have no idea why it’s funny,” he assured us.
His bits take a beat longer than usual to process, but most if not all of Weinbach’s various characters, voices and oddball gimmicks seemed to take irony and bizarro-world cognitive dissonance to new levels. What we saw was never what we got and damn it was funny, for reasons not entirely relevant.
There’s something of a Take-Back-the-Night feel to Weinbach, as if being so self-aware of his own creepy persona and turning it into something redeemable were a victory for socially awkward men everywhere. When he invited a woman onstage to practice being “intimidating” — since that’s what women respect — he reminded himself “Don’t be creepy, Brent, there’s a big difference between being creepy and being intimidating.” But, reliably, he asked her to take a ride on his boat, and flashes of Dexter, the fictitious Showtime serial killer, came to mind, and connotations of creepy and intimidating congealed into one.
He’s also capable of ridiculous, masterful physical comedy — “Who’s excited about smooth jazz?” he inquired, out of nowhere. Cue Art Porter’s “Inside Myself,” during which Weinbach pantomimed his way through a series of otherwise normal everyday activities such as playing golf, all of which took on added erotic meaning thanks to the powers of said smooth jazz, each activity more absurd than the previous. And at the climax of the song, we heard a synthetic explosion, which Weinbach extracted and used in a few of his own jokes, including this gem: “Some people ask me if I have hair on my chest? Does hair growing only from my nipples count? (Explosion).”
Weinbach may still be hovering slightly below the radar, but it’s our guess his star will soon be rising fast, partly thanks to a spot on Conan a few weeks back, and this tour de force headlining gig at Punchline.