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Wonder Twins

Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal prove to be more alike as comedic performers than one would expect at first glance, as shown in tour-de-force show at 92Y Tribeca.

The comedy duo of Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal (see solo show review 8/28/08), who also perform separately and with other groups, tap into a zeitgeist of alternative or “indie” comedy when paired together that is unlike their other work.

Seen at the 92Y Tribeca December 18, as one of the new venue’s recent cutting edge comedy bookings, the duo presented more than hour of sketch comedy with several recurring pieces, including a bizarre “play,” they called “Double Down Hearts” with flashbacks and flash-forwards around the event of the male character’s suicide, all with surreal touches like Braunohler helpfully holding up a pill bottle from a prone position so Schaal could see the cause of his “death.”

Full of anachronisms, another piece by the duo surmised that Pocahontas and John Smith actually invented and conducted the first phone call, which quickly turned into phone sex. Schaal and Braunohler’s comedy blends the surreal and absurd with the historical and the literate, as in this sketch where the phone sex talk gets a little nasty.

Braunohler and Schaal even allude to how they are being increasingly well-known as a duo together, getting asked if they are also in a relationship, the spark for a whole piece about how they used to act together even as babies, taking turns playing the title character of a show called “Judge Baby” (like the People’s Court).

There is something about Braunohler’s and Schaal’s personalities that when paired together, has no equal in comedy performance. Braunohler can project a cheery demeanor that will suddenly take unexpected turns, as in another piece in this show where he strenuously cheers on a dance by Schaal to the extent of his own exhaustion. And Schaal projects an innocent or naďve personality, but can definitely go blue or dirty when needed, giving an equally unexpected shock.

The duo’s show was preceded by a perfunctory 15 or 20-minute stand-up set by Janeane Garofalo, possibly a preview or working out material for a fuller-length show planned for the 92Y Tribeca on January 9. One might have expected the billing to go the other way around, with the duo opening for her, but Garofalo didn’t seem to have a headlining spot worth of material, actually drifting forward to sit on the edge of the stage and try to make the room a little more conversational, where Braunohler and Schaal filled the space that Garofalo was calling “cavernous,” just fine.




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