As an answer to the perhaps unintentional dual meaning of the title of Kurt Braunohler (comedian and host of The K Ohle)’s new album How Do I Land?, let me be the first person to say: you land splendidly.
That’s a question people ask, right? Probably “land” should be “play,” “I” should be “it” and “do” should be “does” (“How Does It Play?”) but even after learning about Braunohler’s Kickstarter stunt, I swear he’s being insecure about his debut comedy LP (actually, it’s a CD/DD). But I project like every other self-centered person and perhaps even feel a kinship with this uniquely concise collection of sharp witticisms and uncanny buffoonery shaped like a guy. His confidence is never undermined by any self-protecting reflex for some down-to-earth sort of relatability, because he gets that, acknowledges it, and says whatever amuses him anyway. He’s likable, but the takeaway is more laughs than anything else.
Kurt wins you over with his jokes, which are part great story, part absurdist missive — a steady controlled cartwheel into a breezily subversive pathology. He’s got perfect timing, his voice deftly vacillating between batshit emphatic and mild-mannered conversational, maximizing crowd reaction. Which brings me to the audience. They sound appreciative, yet (and he points this out a couple times) strangely vocal, with random sputtering laughs and shrieks and moans. Maybe I’ve just forgotten what listening to live stand-up on headphones is like, but when a girl belts out a sarcastic “HA, HA” in reaction to a mediocre opening joke about Portland’s bevvy of bucket drummers, it feels amazingly awkward and transgressive. This is warts and all for Braunohler, without needing to be all that different from what he’s been doing the past decade. Unlike others who’ve made the move, he translates to stand-up from sketch without losing what works best for him as a performer.
As an idea-rich comic (the faux-smarmy nasal tone isn’t the only trait he shares with Stephen Colbert), he can abruptly pick up and drop pretense and shtick and almost always make it work. And even if you don’t like a given premise, it can be fun just to witness the thing unspool. Braunohler’s combination of consistent weirdness and self-deprecating earnestness informs his audience that he’s with them, but he might have to go bye-bye at any moment. But setting aside any lofty considerations, How Do I Land? is an honest to goodness gut buster of a set, and chances are you’ll be in tears over something to the point of missing the next string of moments, lending to its re-listenability. It bucks the usual stand-up tropes in the best way while retaining the intimacy that the forum provides. Hopefully we can cease with the “next big thing” and “one to watch” side-bars and just see a lot more of Kurt doing what he does best. He’s been on Chelsea Lately, and he recently did Conan, so with any luck, more people will be getting wise, sharpish.