Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Fringe Review - An Agony of Fools - Ben San Del - 5 stars

Tweet review - Agony of Fools - watching Fringe artists evolve over time is exciting; Ben San Del's become a really great comedian - 5 stars ‪#mnfringe‬

"Not all cat people are crazy.  Some of them are alcoholics."

"I was diagnosed with ADD, just like everyone else born after 1980."

One of the many joys of the Minnesota Fringe Festival is the chance to watch an artist evolve over time.  I had the pleasure of seeing Ben San Del's very first Fringe show back in 2006.  At the time he was just starting off as a comedian, and admitted that his Fringe slot of nearly an hour of time to fill was the most time he'd ever had to hold a stage on his own, or come up with more than five to ten minutes of material for an open mic night.  Shortly after that Fringe he won the competition to be crowned the Funniest Person in the Twin Cities.  Every Fringe since then in which Ben has appeared, his skill as a performer and a writer have grown and changed.  He's become a gifted comic playwright, penning scripts like A Nice Guy's Guide To Awkward Sex and Minnesota Middle Finger which in addition to being funny, were full of the yearning and pain of human existence and its desire for connection to others.  Thankfully he keeps offering up stand-up Fringe shows as well, such as the recent Animal Cracker Genocide.  Here he takes that route again with An Agony of Fools.

"Cut to me, eating a jar of peanut butter, alone."

"They told us about the dangers of marijuana, the most dangerous of drugs.  Yes, marijuana, the heroin of drugs."

"Dance like you don't care.  Whoa!  Care a little."

As Ben said, it's basically 45 minutes of him talking about stuff, and then he'll stop, and you can join him for a drink over at Fringe Central to finish off the night, and you can talk to him for a while.  Six years on, Ben is an amazing stand-up comedian.  He makes it look like it's the easiest thing in the world to do even though, of course, his whole set is carefully crafted and meticulously paced.  His poise on stage, his ability to work a crowd, to time a joke so it lands just so, to keep the whole thing moving at a steady clip - not rushed, but not full of awkward pauses and clumsy segues.  It's real pleasure to watch, over and above the jokes themselves.

"I got a degree in English, a language I already spoke."

"Any morning people in the audience, I don't hate you.  You're here, so you're obviously night person supportive.  Because there's no such thing as a comedian who's a morning person."

There's an extended riff about being a night person vs. the world which is run by morning people.  There's talk of job hunting and the benefits and drawbacks of a college education.  There's discussion of family trips to strange roadside attractions.  There's an great sequence about the disturbing nature of cats as pets, and the people who own them.  Dating life and relationships also get a spin, as do physical and psychological torture inflicted by older brothers, and some random items from his own personal bucket list.  You can't really convey the full effect of Ben San Del's act in random quotes, or by trying to describe it in general terms.  It's as much about hanging out with Ben the person, as it is the content of what he's discussing.

"Wall Drug - it's like an antique store had sex with a Chuck E Cheese."

"Quick!  Flush the Sudafed!  You can make meth from that!  Oh, and flush the meth!"

That 45 minutes just flew right by.  I could have listened to Ben talk a lot longer.  But it's always best to leave the audience wanting more.  If you want a good laugh from a guy who knows what he's doing, and has a great off-beat sensibility about life, Ben San Del's your man, and An Agony of Fools is your show.

5 stars - Very Highly Recommended

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