As someone who caught merely a few fleeting seconds of “The Drew Carey Show” during its nine-year run, my familiarity with the plebeian comedic flair of its star was summed up during his brief appearance in Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette’s 2005 documentary, “The Aristocrats,” a Gatling gun of humorists asked to take turns telling their own version of the dirtiest joke ever written.
Carey’s contribution to the film stood out, because he turned the joke’s archetypal setup on its head by conjuring a raunchy yet wickedly clever rendition that highlighted how a simple twist can go a long way.
What the film really did, though, is position itself as a celebration of everything the First Amendment to the Constitution affords us as American citizens. It showed how the verbal gymnastics of stand-up comedy can employ some of the most contaminated images imaginable and still maintain its artistic credibility in the process.
What each comedian was saying wasn’t as important as the fact that they were allowed to say it.
Because the sphere of stand-up comedy is arguably the last bastion of free speech in America, last night’s set by Drew Carey inside the Seneca Niagara Events Center was an invigorating change of pace for a man whose public persona during the last decade has been defined as being Bob Barker’s replacement on “The Price is Right.”
He came out firing from the beginning with bits about people going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and various inside stories from the game show world, but, once he began delving into religion and the physical perils of being a 55-year-old male, the show hit its stride.
While Carey’s everyman joviality was in full effect throughout, hearing him riff on Scientology and Kim Kardashian with a flurry of f-bombs put his corporate career to shame. One can only keep impure thoughts bottled up for so long before it’s time to hit the road and share them with an audience, so he made sure his material would hit hard and fast.
For instance, a gut-busting, tongue-in-cheek aside about James Blake, the driver of the bus on which Rosa Parks took her civil rights stand, being the actual father of the movement elicited a deafening roar from the crowd, even if many were uneasy about laughing at such an absurd contention. There’s something soothing about witnessing a comedian carry an audience out on the ledge, and Carey was fearless in his pursuit to see just how far he could go.
Add to the mix a healthy array of jokes involving O.J. Simpson, hotel room pornography, and male genitalia, and the show proved that Carey remains an inspired commander of the craft.
Because, really, what would a comedy show be without dick jokes?
Heather and Miles, an improv duo from Los Angeles, opened the show with a 20-minute sketch stemming from a Batman theme, but things quickly flew off the rails and became an oddball concoction of strange accents and bestiality involving elephants. They did their best with what the audience gave them and drummed up some hearty laughs in the process.
A few people left early after seeing that this wasn’t the same ‘Teddy Bear’ Drew Carey they were expecting, but, honestly, that made me respect the man’s act even more.