PERRY PERLMUTAR headlining at the LAUGH RESORT (370 King West), tonight through Saturday (December 20-22), Thursday 8:30 pm, Friday-Saturday 8:30 and 10:45 pm. $10-$15. 416-364-5233, www.laughresort.com. Rating: NNNNN
Stand-up comics had better be prepared when Perry Perlmutar’s in the house. Not only is he very funny, but he’ll know if you’re cribbing from other acts.
“Sometimes I’ll watch other comics and think a bit’s funny but is very close to an old Bill Cosby joke,” he says. “I’ve even written something myself and then remembered that there was a similar joke on An Evening At The Improv back in 1983. That’s how my brain works.”
Perlmutar doesn’t have to worry about finding original material these days. His life provides all the inspiration he needs.
He’s a Jewish man married to a Muslim woman. He used to teach English as a second language. And he’s recently become a stay-at-home dad.
Each of these topics should get major play during his first headlining gig at the Laugh Resort this weekend.
We’re sitting in the Rivoli, where Perlmutar has performed dozens, maybe even hundreds of times – first as a member of the sketch duo Nugmutter (with Mike Nahrgang), and then as a stand-up at shows like Monday night’s legendary ALTdotCOMedy Lounge.
He was also a member of an indie band for several years, so it’s no surprise that he mentions Bruce Springsteen’s onstage banter as a major influence on his comedy act.
“If you’ve ever seen him live or heard his live recordings, his stories are amazing,” says Perlmutar over a ginger ale. “He’s funny, interesting and direct. He takes you in another direction, the same way a comedian would.”
In fact, Perlmutar first hit on the idea of becoming a stand-up after realizing he could hold a room’s attention.
“We were at somebody’s cottage, and I was telling a drinking story to a few people. Within about five minutes, 20 people had gathered in the room, surrounding me, listening. It was a really cool feeling. They were laughing at all the right parts. It felt like a natural thing.”
There’s a likeability about Perlmutar that makes him a popular host. Even when he’s doing his material about his ESL students, including dead-on Turkish or Japanese accents, he’s always inclusive, never mean-spirited.
“I’d never tell a story that makes fun of any of my students,” he says. “All my stories are about funny things that have happened in the class. I’ve even told these stories to my students, and they go crazy, praising my intonation.”
As for his material about his wife, whose family is from Bangladesh, he says the one thing that’s off-limits is terrorist jokes.
“Many people associate brown people and Muslims with terrorism, and I used to have one joke that sort of referred to that,” he says. “But to be honest, it has nothing to do with our lives. People don’t think she’s a terrorist. If anything, my material is about how a Jew and a Muslim make it work. We embrace the differences. That’s what’s more interesting and true for me.”
He even has a sense of humour about the fact that his older brother, Lorne Perlmutar, is a comedy agent and runs the ALTdotCOMedy Lounge.
“I’m sure early on people thought, ‘Oh, your brother’s your agent – you must be amazing,’” he laughs. “But I think the only reason he started managing me was because he got good feedback from other comics.
“There’s another thing. If people think I’m on a bill because of my brother, then their expectations are pretty low. If I go up and I’m okay, they’re surprised. So I think people’s misconceptions disappeared pretty early.”
It also has financial benefits, he says.
“If you’re going to let somebody take 15 per cent off of what you get,” he jokes, “it might as well be the person you borrowed it from.”
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On making his family laugh:
On his unique audience: