John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman give Pabst Theater three shows for price of one
Jokes, sing-alongs, costume changes, and sandwiches.
Boasting combined comedic credentials that include penning the beloved Complete World Knowledge book trilogy, regular roles on Bob’s Burgers and Flight Of The Conchords, a late-series 30 Rock part, and occasional correspondent pieces for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, and Eugene Mirman could have easily managed three separately successful appearances at Pabst Theater. Fortunately, Milwaukee was one of six cities privy to the trio’s “Sandwich-To-Go”—an eclectic grab bag overflowing with jokes, sing-alongs, costume changes, and, yes, a sandwich.
Following a short video of the trio hamming it up at Milwaukee Public Market Friday afternoon, Hodgeman, Schaal, and Mirman entered a full Pabst Theater to uproarious applause. The trio wasted no time in making good on the reception, as they culled facts from Milwaukee’s Wikipedia page, with Schaal balanced at the stage’s edge in attempt to give an audience member a peek up her skirt. Keeping with the abbreviated tour’s tradition, Hodgman sampled a regional sandwich provided by an audience member: a Sheboygan-style steak sandwich, which the humorist declared to be “a really good hamburger” before rewarding the fan with his choice of either $6 (the cost of the sandwich) or a warm case of Hanson’s “MmmHops” beer the band left the previous week. He chose the latter.
After some 20 minutes of riffing and sandwich sampling, Hodgman and Schaal departed to allow Mirman, the first headliner, to take his turn on stage. The Brooklyn-based comic was true to form, with a set heavy in unorthodox observations, a story about him and REM’s Michael Stipe being mugged by Mexican police officers, and reading direct messages he’d sent to public figures on Facebook. Mirman also leaned on multimedia and prop materials near the end of his half-hour set, including a video of himself tearfully questioning the details of Obamacare and reading the copy of a hilariously worded full page ad he’d taken out in New Hampshire’s annual harbor guide book to dispute a $10 parking ticket, which referenced “self-BJs” along the way.
Mirman then re-introduced Schaal, who resumed her tireless quest for the perfect dick joke she was on when she and Mirman were last in town for Kramp & Adler’s Comedy Festival in 2011. Standing on the stage she predicted to be “splattered with dozens of failed dick jokes,” she commanded the crowd with 30 minutes of self-deprecating and hyper-sexualized material. Some material overlapped from her previous visit (including her outlandish and outstanding “taintalogue,” and a crass joke about hook dicks), but she padded the classics with satisfying bits about how being hot in pioneer times was “a waste,” and wishing all women would share her love of “Eatin’ and ‘Batin’” before giving way to Hodgman.
The Yale-educated author began in uncharacteristic fashion, admitting he’d been playing Grand Theft Auto V in the group’s van all tour. “I did pretty good at it because I’m a monster inside,” Hodgman said in his familiar deadpan style. The 42-year-old ragged on his futile attempt to look young and talked about his late experimentation with marijuana, despite a lifetime of drug use. “I would not exist had it not been for an array of exceedingly exotic antihistamines,” he said.
Keeping with his out-of-touch motif, he pulled two teenagers on stage to give feedback about “new” jokes anchored on masturbating to microfiche, the dancing baby on Ally McBeal, and the success of Barnes & Noble. While the material didn’t work on the teens, the crowd ate it up. The steadily building set peaked when Hodgman dropped his pants, took off his shirt and donned an Ayn Rand-inspired dress as he paired Atlas Shrugged quotes with contrasting musings about Fresca and casserole recipes.
Still in the dress, Hodgman produced a ukulele and called his counterparts back on stage to accompany him in a sing-along of “Rocky Top Tennessee” with “Tennessee” replaced with “Milwaukee.” The waning notes put an end to a night that could’ve made for three good shows, but was combined into one great show.