Comedy Hot Rod
N.J.’s Eric Lyden speeds to the top of the stand-up world with breakout
By Michael Shashoua / Editor-in-chief & Gabrielle Nash
just a few years, New York-based and New Jersey-raised stand-up comic
Eric Lyden has gone from bringer shows and open mikes to headlining at
Caroline’s in its “Breakout Artist Comedy Series” on March 10.
Having caught Lyden’s act at the outset and over those years, it’s
obvious that he has evolved a great deal. In the beginning, Lyden
featured celebrity impressions, but always within other stories or
jokes, just for effect. Now, though, in this showcase gig on Broadway,
he’s long since dropped the impressions and mines dark topics in
concise, well constructed jokes.
“My wife asked me, ‘If we got divorced, would you stalk me?’ I said, ‘I
don’t pay attention to you now, why would I do that if we got
divorced?’” Just the fact that Lyden will use his wife as comedic fodder
in this way is pretty bold, although when he delivers this stuff with a
cheerful presence, one suspects it’s not entirely based on reality.
Another bit on this night, also about his marriage, was a little more
lighthearted – “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a GPS that could tell
you where one of her stories was going?” Lyden mused. “ ‘Are you
listening to me?’” he imagined his wife demanding. “Uh-oh,
‘Recalculating route.’” Lyden exclaimed.
the other hand, Lyden deploys his impressionist talents to throw in bits
of characters to illustrate his jokes. He’ll cross his eyes and scrunch
up his face for a bit about no one caring when ugly people come out of
the closet, playing that character announcing, “I’m gay!” Back as
himself, Lyden asks, “Why don’t you go back in?” – here displaying the
edge and darkness also shot through his material.
another piece, Lyden ties together his dark perspective and his comic
characters to even greater effect, musing that it would be very
effective to have a therapist with a handicap, such as deafness, so the
patient feels better about their own life. Speaking in a voice something
like that of Kirk Douglas at the recent Oscars, Lyden tells a reluctant
patient, “No, no, you come in here. Let it out. I had problems with my
dad too. When I first learned to read lips, the first thing I saw my dad
say was ‘Aw, he can’t hear it.’”
Lyden has effectively gone from zero to 60 in a relatively brief time as
a stand-up comedian, now that he’s reached headliner status at such a
well-known New York venue. Having appeared on national television
already on “Comics Unleashed,” with this performance Lyden showed he has
the material, presence and charm to headline on both stage and screen.
After seeing Lyden “arrive” at Caroline’s, Jester looks forward to his
talent rising in prominence very soon.