The Last Outlaw
Carl LaBove makes a mark in New York with storytelling-laced show
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
Stand-up comedian Carl LaBove has been to the heights and the depths of show business, and his resulting chops showed in a performance at the Laughing Devil in Long Island City, Queens on May 8.
Playing to a small audience in this show, LaBove admitted he lost the thread of what he was trying to do with trying out some longer, more storytelling-type pieces – even as he delved into interesting bits of his past as one of Sam Kinison’s “Outlaws,” some of which he had covered on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.
But LaBove’s presence even on this small stage is so warm and entertaining that you really don’t mind if he has a few dead spots, or what he thinks are dead spots. In vivid, explosive and punchy bits about growing up in Texas as a young man, in the earlier part of the show, and about his more recent adventures, in the latter third of the night, LaBove presented well-crafted material.
LaBove has a veteran stand-up’s palette – and that includes a Kinison-like scream at times – but he takes pains not to make his show exploitive of Sam’s memory, which requires a lot of restraint and is admirable. In one piece, LaBove remembers working raking cement on a construction site in a hot Texas summer at age 19, and aspiring only to take over driving in the air-conditioned cab of a watering truck. LaBove did get that wish, but by an unexpected route that he paints colorfully.
Aside from screeches or screams, LaBove can mimic a range of sounds in his delivery, from the grate of a peep show door slowly and grindingly rising, to the bells and whistles of a casino floor. This adds a lot of life to his show.
LaBove does also mine deeper moments from his past successfully – like the story of his father, who came out when LaBove was a young comic, and eventually lost his life to AIDS. LaBove evokes the confusion that he had about what to feel about this revelation back then. It was a time that Kinison actually helped him through, telling Carl that this shouldn’t be any great struggle for him, and he should still love his father – and that his father had the real struggle to show the courage to really be who he was. You could feel LaBove remembering that wisdom sinking in, through the retelling.
His show is billed as “An Outlaw’s Tale,” evoking his past. It’s really a blend of comedy and drama, at least on this night. LaBove is a captivating presence on stage and he has channeled his talent into well-written and crafted pieces, which often evoke visual scenes for an audience. The combination of LaBove’s conceptions and delivery makes a memorable impact.
Carl LaBove returns with “An Outlaw’s Tale” to the Laughing Devil in Long Island City, Queens at 8 p.m. Tuesdays May 22 and 29.
A brief update is in order, after having caught a second performance of “An Outlaw’s Tale” on May 29. On this night, LaBove had come a long way since earlier in the month – stringing his stories together more seamlessly, building dramatic tension more effectively and adding other untold stories to the performance. LaBove has developed this show into a full-fledged theater-worthy piece, apart from his stand-up comedy. He plans more performances in the coming months in Long Island and Manhattan, including June 15 at the Producers Club. We’ll keep you posted in our shows calendar.
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© 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua