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Monday, Feb. 17, 2014

Comic David Koechner Displayed His Versatility at Turner Hall

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Photo credit: Benjamin Wick
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While he’s unquestionably best known for his portrayals of “Whammy!”-shouting Anchorman sportscaster Champ Kind and Michael Scott-enabling traveling salesman Todd Packer on “The Office,” David Koechner’s career extends well beyond two scene-stealing supporting roles. The former ImprovOlympic and Second City player, ex-“SNL” cast member and owner of close to 100 combined television and film credits came to Turner Hall Ballroom on Valentine’s Day, and a touched on his 20-plus years of stage and screen experience with solid stand-up, character reprisals and even a few songs.

Following a short set by apt opener Matt Dwyer, Koechner ambled on stage in jeans, a black shirt and matching black pork pie hat. After a verbose tale of day-drinking, he transitioned into material about love and mating—especially fitting, given the holiday—with allegations that women are always better looking than their men, citing his theory that “women just give up.” He put his theory to work as he jumped off stage and did a lap around the ballroom, brazenly pointing at assumed couples and saying, “Yep. She’s better looking.”

Midway through his experiment, Koechner personally led a pair of latecomers to seats and ordered three beers. He handed two Spotted Cow pints to the tardy comedy fans and took the third back to the stage with him. Before he re-took the stage, he noticed an especially lopsided couple and asked the lucky gentleman, “Are you a genius sir? Are you rich?”

Back on stage, the devoted husband and father of five continued to wax prophetic about marriage and relationships, claiming the perfect marriage consists of two straight guys—complete with visuals of two king size beds without frames, no calendar, taking turns making a week’s worth of steak dinners for every meal, and using whichever car had gas in it.

He eventually broke free form the relationship motif and delighted the 500-some in attendance with his impersonation of “the guy who thinks he’s the funniest guy at work,” which found Koechner stringing together various stream of consciousness “jokes” that ranged from Chris Christie to repeated borderline harassment of “those girls from accounting” and were all punctuated with a quick “no” tacked to the end of the last word. His weaving set soon touched on music, with an unexpectedly accurate rendition of Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” and a great bit about Neil Young being able to sing anything he wanted before the “and I felt like getting high” line in “After The Gold Rush” and still eliciting cheers. “Hitler had a couple of good ideas and I felt like getting high” Koechner sang in his best Young falsetto, having his point proved with audible hollers.

Perhaps as a means of avoiding late set interruptions, Koechner briefly halted his set after about 45 minutes on stage. “I know what you’re thinking, mother fucker better say ‘Whammy!’” he said, accurately reading the audience, before running some of Champ Kind’s greatest hits (threat to take out Dorothy Mantooth and never call her again, among them) as onlookers hooted or match him word-for-word. He then led Turner Hall on an “Afternoon Delight” singalong, before seamlessly swinging the appeased Anchorman aficionados back into original material.

Movie career addressed, Koechner rounded out the show by bringing us back to his stage origin with a hilarious—and miraculously inoffensive—monologue by a character who is Koechner’s gay morbidly obese, cheesecake-obsessed neighbor Ray. He chased that with a tale of a man losing his leg to a rusty spring in a secondhand La-Z-Boy recliner before occupying the final 20 minutes of his set by reviving his longstanding T-Bones character. The uncouth drifter spun mush mouthed yarns about talking to the river before bringing out his hobo band (Dwyer on snare drum and another man on guitar) for a trio of songs: A song to his assumed astronaut father, an “old hobo spiritual” (called “$2 and a hand job”) and a southern-fried cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”

While rarely the leading man on the screen, the veteran character actor showed he could command the stage with his 90-minute variety show that was altogether endearing, enlightening and entertaining.