steve levine headlining at the Laugh Resort (370 King West) through November 10, Thursday 8:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 8:15 and 10:30 pm. $10-$15. 416-364-5233. Rating: NNN
if watching a stand-up comedyshow is like being a passenger in a car, then Steve Levine delivers a damned smooth ride. The current headliner at the Laugh Resort coasts through more than an hour's worth of material with hardly an uncomfortable bump or jolt.
That's fitting, since jokes about driving figure prominently in his act.
He's a keen observer of human behaviour, of the little politenesses that smooth our way through society, like signalling correctly in traffic or choosing somebody to sit beside on a crowded bus.
Occasionally he shows an imaginative, surreal streak, such as when he describes old-style answering machines or compares in-flight meals to a chess game. Here are jokes that might die on paper, but he makes them fly through verbal ingenuity.
Levine excels at the sly comeback, the retort muttered under his breath delivered with a smart-alecky smile.
That attitude might stem in part from his short stature (which he's the first to send up), but there's no bile, and no obvious chip resting on his shoulder.
Levine's so likeable and insightful, in fact, that one of his riskiest bits, a series of ethnic impressions based on the wagging of his head, comes across as completely non-offensive. And his musings on death -- going grocery shopping at 110, or decoding the obituaries -- hit the mark.
If he has a problem, it's his failure to communicate with his crowd. There's little eye contact. We might as well be a mirror. Sure, Levine tells us he's used to driving alone. But even if he's got a firm grasp on the wheel, he should acknowledge that he's got some passengers, too.