Among the required gifts of a good comedian is the ability to observe everyday situations in a way that is refreshingly different and, at the same, so shockingly obvious that the audience has an instant 'aha.' They recognize themselves, their families, or events they've experienced. But the comedian shines a light that makes the ordinary and familiar suddenly ridiculous, bizarre or downright stupid. Laughter is the inevitable result.
An evening spent with Irish comedian Dylan Moran involves multiple moments like these. Whip-smart and unashamedly sarcastic, Moran finds numerous targets for his searing humor. But he's not afraid to turn the fierce light of his humor on himself.
Indeed, in his recent show, "Yeah, Yeah," at the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco, Moran spent as much time skewering his now middle-aged self (he's 41), his consequent declining physique, his lack of any real authority over his children and his love of trashy action thrillers that he characterizes as a form of surrogate masculinity.
He might scream and throw himself to the ground if an unknown object comes flying toward him (and his wife might almost choke laughing as she watches). But viewing a surrogate male self take down the bad guys is all the cure he needs.
One of Britain's most popular comedians, Moran is most familiar in the US for his television work, most notably the strange and hilarious "Black Books," in which he starred and also wrote. He also appeared in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Run Fatboy Run" and is slated to have a leading role in the new movie "Calvary," a follow-up to director John Michael McDonagh's debut, "The Guard" (the highest grossing film in Irish history).
Obviously Moran has many talents. And in stand-up he shines. Dressed in jeans and a plain black jacket on the stage of the Marines Memorial, taking occasional sips from a glass of red wine, he was relaxed and in complete command of his material.
It's a rich repertoire. In addition to an ample dose of self-deprecation, he takes on Mitt Romney and the man's limited inventory of facial expressions. Like everyone else in Europe, Moran tells us, he's deeply grateful for the recent election results and relieved that "an escapee from a 1950's sitcom" is not the guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
His monologue on Mitt quickly veers toward religion: Moran doesn't believe in God, but has a compassionate understanding of those who turn to him for solace: "If you're going to have an imaginary friend, you might as well have an all-powerful one."
Like most European comedians touring the U.S., Moran makes some wry observations on certain aspects of the American way of life. In his case, it's a biting rant about the all-sexy, all-the-time culture in which women insist that they wobble around in six-inch stilettos "for me," and everyone from nine to ninety is supposed to look "hot."
He's equally unsparing in his commentary on Americans' overuse of phrases like "awesome" (and what he views as the unfortunate adoption of such phrases by fellow English speakers across the pond). And he contemplates the evolution of language, confessing his own confusion after one of his son's friends said he wouldn't eat some soup at school lunch because it tasted "gay."
Fortunately (and I'm always afraid of this, never mind how "progressive" a straight comedian claims to be) he never ventures into homophobia. When he expresses admiration for the way gay men are so sexually frank about what they want in their personal ads, it's the straight folk and their ridiculous use of innuendo he's making fun of.
If nothing else, Moran brings an unconventional and utterly fresh take on the world around us, providing so many of those 'aha' moments that can lead to nothing other than laughter. Immensely likeable, intelligently funny, and not ashamed to mock his own vulnerabilities, he puts on a truly enjoyable show.
For more info about Dylan Moran, visit www.dylanmoran.com