Louie Anderson performed Tuesday in Brainerd.
By now, Louie Anderson and Jeff Cesario could probably do their acts in their sleep. That's almost what happened during the comedians' Tuesday night show at the Rail in downtown Brainerd.
The popular Los Angeles-by-way-of-the-Twin-Cities comedians were performing their ninth show in seven nights on their old touring turf: Minnesota and the Dakotas. Brainerd was their last stop, and it was obvious from the comics' body language.
"This is the only thing I had that was clean," Anderson said about his untucked white shirt, before moseying into his trademark set about growing up in St. Paul. He talked about his dad, his mom and growing up and had the crowd eating out of his hand after every whiny-voiced Louie-ism.
His dad, watching Lawrence Welk: "Sit down, you might learn something."
"OK, start by moving the fences in 200 feet."
Imagining the invention of softball
His mom, before the kids went out into cold weather: "Make sure you wear your good gloves."
His dad, announcing the weekly family trip: "C'mon, we're going to the dump."
About halfway through the set, Anderson asked some chatty patrons at the back of the room to quiet down for the sake of other comedy fans who may have been distracted. "I can work through it," he said, diffusing the situation. "I know all this stuff."
Most of the crowd did, too, especially if they had attended Anderson's pair of 2004 shows at the Rail. Still, no matter how many times you hear it, the image of Anderson wearing a hospital gown and rummaging through the doctor's drawers for stuff to steal is still funny. "You can never have enough gauze," he said.
Cesario, in his first Brainerd performance, was less energetic than the last time I saw him, in a riotous 2004 set at Izatys resort. He even forgot to do his most famous bit: the golf announcer doing a hockey game and vice versa.
But in its place, he unveiled fresher material than Anderson's, including an exaggerated one-man re-enactment of late-night boxing on obscure satellite channels. (Speaking of TV, Cesario will be a guest on ESPN's "Jim Rome is Burning" all next week.)
The olive-skinned Italian-American said he has had to make some changes since the emergence of airplane-passenger profiling: "I'm shaving every nine minutes." He got plenty more laughs out of this premise, launching into an impression of a Baghdad comedian channeling Jeff Foxworthy ("You might be a Muslim if ...").
He segued smoothly from Middle East humor to his home state: "If you think J Lo has a big butt, you've clearly never been to Wisconsin."
Opening act Scott Hansen, also originally from Wisconsin, is nonetheless always the first to poke fun at cheeseheads, at least when he's performing in Minnesota. He said Superior should be renamed "Adequate" and then painted a mental image of "bullheads in Packer caps" that endeared him immediately to the crowd.
He continued the theme with a hilarious rant about sports that aren't really sports, theorizing that softball was invented by guys who stink at baseball: "OK, start by moving the fences in 200 feet."
The best innovation Tuesday night was the Rail's decision to not allow smoking during the show; I just wish I had known about it beforehand so I could've talked more non-smokers into attending.
This was the first comedy show I've reviewed at the Rail since the venue started its regular comedy gigs nearly a year ago, but I often catch the Saturday night shows in the downstairs club without my comedy critic hat, and I'm rarely disappointed.
Non-regulars often tell me it's the smoke that scares them off. But usually the crowds are small enough that the smoke isn't too bad anyway. So check out the club sometime; you might find it refreshing.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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