alex nussbaum's parkdale comedy experience with Nussbaum, winston spear, andy boorman, jay malone, tara smith, the distractions, nikki payne, gilson lubin and all day breakfast at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Tuesday (February 18) at 8:30 pm. $8. 416-596-1908. Rating: NNNNN
Alex Nussbaum couldn't see enough live comedy when he was a kid in North York. But he didn't know that one day he'd be holding a mike and not a test tube."Before I even started doing stand-up, I had already watched about 10 years of the stuff," says the comic, who was originally planning on becoming a scientist.
"I saw a lot: Theatresports, Second City, Yuk Yuk's," says Nussbaum, whose favourite stand-ups included Norm MacDonald and Harland Williams.
"I was aware of what had been done. A lot of people who are starting out in comedy are really excited and hang out all the time at the clubs. When I'm performing I just do my stuff."
True enough, before or after a gig, you won't find Nussbaum schmoozing up fans or other comics. Compliment him and he looks nervous, slightly embarrassed. His determination and ambition are obvious, though, almost giving the lie to that happy-go-lucky persona he presents onstage.
The hard work's paying off. You can catch him guesting on The Seán Cullen Show Friday (February 14) on CBC and see his hour-long Comedy Now special on February 23.
But to fully appreciate his art, you've got to witness him live -- as in his Alex Nussbaum's Parkdale Comedy Experience this Tuesday (February 18) at the Rivoli. He's assembled a lineup of stand-up and sketch acts who all live in the Parkdale 'hood.
Nussbaum's got a scientist's eye for detail, such as when he compares tough guys picking a fight to defensive apes. He's also fond of surreal bits, such as his joke about surviving a bear attack by hitting the ground and singing spirituals.
But what makes him stand out most from the comics crowd is his physical loopiness. He's like a 3-D human cartoon, something that should make him a natural to graduate to TV and film.
"I think we process physical jokes quicker," he theorizes, sprawling -- his lanky frame is made for sprawling -- on a sofa in Parkdale's Cadillac Lounge. "You don't have the language barrier. A physical bit goes straight to the brain, while a lot of jokes are images put into words."
His physical comedy came about as a survival mechanism, he explains.
"When you're uncoordinated and bad at sports, you have two choices. You can either get angry or you can make fun of yourself. I made fun of myself, the same way people who are fat make fun of themselves before someone else does."
While he seldom does Jewish-themed jokes, Nussbaum doesn't shy away from a fact-based joke about Hugo Boss designing Nazi uniforms -- his most controversial bit, especially since both his parents are concentration camp survivors.
"I'm not laughing at this thing in our past, I'm poking fun at the superficiality of the fashion industry," he explains. "I'm making people more aware. If you're smart enough, you'll realize I'm saying something worth saying. And if you're not, then screw you."email@example.com