8.9/10
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Jake Johannsen: This'll Take About an Hour (1991)

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tv special | stand up comedy | See All (2) »


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We Want a Rock
Performed by They Might Be Giants
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Funniest Comedy Routine in the History of the Universe
19 January 2005 | by (Wilmington, Delaware) – See all my reviews

I had a copy of this that I watched dozens of times before losing it in a fire in 1998, but from what I remember, Jake's 1-hour routine is probably the best-timed, best-written, and best-executed comedy ever put on television or film. This ranks up there with the classic Pryor films, and Steve Martin's Wild and Crazy Guy concert at Red Rocks (and even tops them at parts). What sets this apart is that when Pryor and Martin perform, you know that they've been practicing each part of their acts and they line their bits up with standard set-up/embellishment/punchline formats. Johannsen has done that, too, but truly convinces me that he is digressing for the first time, as it's happening. He begins telling you about an experience, which can be funny, but invariably leads to a much bigger, or funnier chain of events, just as a conversation would go with someone you just met (only much funnier). Another plus is what Jake avoids. I don't recall much reliance on sound-effects, facial mugging, lame impersonations, repeated lines/catchphrases used to prompt audience responses, or other signs of desperation that way too man people use in routines these days. Jake just tells the lines, maybe makes a relevant gesture while applause and laughter are going on, then moves on. Additionally, too many comedians have that quick line, followed by an "uhhhhhh" while the audience catches up followed by the next joke. Jake knows when to shut up, let the laughter and applause happen, and then simply continue his thoughts afterwords. His transitions are great. Before you know it, you've moved from hearing about his plane ride, to locking his keys in a running car, to waiting for the telephone repair guy. The flow is excellent.

The only downside I can determine (more for Jake, than for the special) is that he is a comic based on style and delivery, not just content. What's funniest about his routine is not necessarily the punchline, but all the small asides within the anecdotes and lines. After seeing him perform, it is unlikely that people will go around repeating his lines since the material is basically one long string of funny stuff, not part and parcel jokes. People can grab a few one-liners, or a catchphrase from another comedian's (like George Carlin, Dice, Kinison, etc.) routine and repeat them, creating word-of-mouth advertising for a comedian, leading them to get curious about the act and create a following. With Jake, you can't pass-on the funny parts quickly, or with any hope of giving full detail. You can only pass on the style, but that's hard to do. Getting people interested in Jake's performances requires getting them to see one in its entirety to build up from there. That could be why so few people know who he is, relevant to lesser comedians like Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, and the like.

If you ever get the chance to see this, take it. And pray that Jake has a revival and can do more specials in the future.


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