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Comedy Hot Rod

N.J.’s Eric Lyden speeds to the top of the stand-up world with breakout Caroline’s show

By Michael Shashoua / Editor-in-chief  & Gabrielle Nash

In 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.

On 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.

In 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.

 

   

     

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