The comedy of Adam Conover is very niche.
If you’re not familiar with the 36-year-old comedian and star of the hit series Adam Ruins Everything, his comedy can be best described as a biology class taught by the funniest teacher in your high school. Conover combines a traditional stand-up routine with mind-blowing facts about biology, social media, and advertising, aided by an interactive audio-visual presentation. Conover’s show was undoubtedly original and at times largely entertaining, but it was an uneven performance with the best jokes being few and far between.
Conover brought his brand of educational comedy to Longboat Hall last Friday night as part of The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival where he was featured as one of the headlining acts. Performing for an audience of about 80 people, Conover began the show by telling the crowd how he’s the only entertainer in his family.
“Everyone in my family is a scientist and I’m here. I can’t impress my parents,” quipped Conover.
This early joke struck me as slightly old-fashioned for such a groundbreaking comedian, and it turned out that it was the first of many jokes that felt for lack of a better term, “basic.” These included poorly re-creating The Lion King theme song, referencing Eharmony, and suggesting that if you see a snail eating poop, stage an intervention and convince the snail to go on a diet. For a show that came equipped with such a well-organized AV presentation, many of Conover’s punchlines didn’t seem to be given much thought.
Speaking of, while the more traditional stand-up aspects of his show felt manic, Conover’s presentation and mind-blowing facts went over very well with the audience. To demonstrate the power that advertising has over our minds, Conover plays the sound of a single bell toll. When he asks the audience what they associate that sound with, they unanimously respond “Taco Bell.” With sharp timing he quickly retorts, “oh, no one thought that it was 1 p.m. or that someone was getting married?” Moments like this got big laughs from the audience, proving that Conover is a master at the genre of comedy that he has carved for himself.
Other moments that got big laughs were simply when Conover seemed to go off-script, slow things down, and riff on the differences between America and Canada. By far the biggest laugh of the night is when he made a punchline about the fast-food chain Arby’s and the audience laughed out of sheer confusion, something Conover could laugh at as well. In fact, he even goes as far as to joke, “I’m going to point out when I make an American reference that Canadians don’t have because you like it better than the jokes.” Unfortunately, Conover hit the nail on the head. Which is absolutely nothing against Conover or his talent. The fact of the matter is that the audience preferred his off-the cuff humour much more than anything he had pre-planned.
As I said, Conover’s comedy is very niche. While it works wonderfully online and on TV, I’m not confident how well it translates to a live setting. Fans of his show are sure to be more than pleased, but the average comedy-goer may be left puzzled and exhausted. That being said, Conover still possesses a certain charisma that we’ll secure his future in the performing arts. Though perhaps for his next live show, he may benefit from a more improvised, casual approach to comedy.
[Review by Luke Elisio]