Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI – 4/4
If there’s one sure-fire way to get a room full of frat boys to crack up, it would be to play a Dane Cook CD. If there’s one sure-fire way to get a room full of frat boys who are majoring in philosophy and accompanied by their field hockey-playing girl friends to crack up, it would be to play a Nick Swardson CD.
Too smart to be crude, but just a bit too crude to quite be accepted in intellectual comedy circles, the laid back, best buddy comedian has been making a beer and bong-water splash in Hollywood these days, appearing in trademark winking at the camera, sexually ambiguous roles like the gay roller-skate adored prostitute Terry on Reno: 911 and as Jon Heder’s sinister stalker in Blades of Glory.
More recently, Swardson has been dipping back into stand-up comedy, the performing bread and butter that launched his career a few years back. Flanked by rookie comedians Eric Allen, DJ Anderson, and Sohrab Foroozesh, Swardson took his act to Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 4, where the comedian turned major Hollywood player delivered some of his sharpest, wriest observational-styled humor yet, cashing in on the expected reserve of weed and penis jokes, but also delving into the cleverly perverse.
As a live performer, Swardson continually demonstrates his skills as a quick-witted jokester, parlaying off hecklers and drunken hooligans with the ease of someone with twice as many years on the road. (At one point, a male audience member, balcony-confined, shouted out a thinly veiled homophobic taunt. Swardson responded by wondering aloud if he was being asked out).
Still, on display remained the comedian’s cunning knack for original insight and creative foreplay with oft-rundown material. In the hands of another, less capable voice, bits about eating too many pot brownies and dating would have fallen flat and landed with a dull, microphone-on-solid wood echoing thud. As imagined through the eyes of Swardson, however, audience members are transported from the inherently mundane to a realm of provoking thought and thoroughly sharp-tongued repartee. Perhaps Swardson’s funniest sequence comes in the form of his wondering about what life as a ninja would be like.
With a sly combination of well-timed punchlines and outrageous, flourishing stage moves, Swardson effectively claims the stage space and makes it his own. Indeed, all one needs to do is watch a few fleeting moments of any one of Swardson’s stand-up routines to gather that he is a natural performer – he fits in as comfortably and naturally in the stage environment as Waldo at a Wool Hat Convention.
Judging from Swardson’s appearance at the historic Michigan Theatre, it’s not hard to see why Hollywood has so eagerly come a-knocking for the swiftly rising superstar. And, with an upcoming film project titled “Born to be a Star” in the works, it seems as though Swardson is operating on enough genuine star power to energize a nuclear facility, or two.