The next time I go to hear Heywood Banks do his standup comedy concert–which will be on April 15, when he comes back to the Ark–I’m going to lay in a supply of Advil for after the show. The last couple of times I saw him, when he served as emcee for the Ann Arbor Folk Festival a couple of years ago and at the Comedy Club last year, I came away with sore stomach muscles from frequent belly laughs and repeated doubling over. And for sure I’ll bring Kleenex. Those times I was unprepared for tears running down my face, and … ah, fluids emanating from my nose as I snickered and snorted through Banks’s jokes, monologues, and songs.
There are other comedians–Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Lynch, and Bo Burnham come to mind–who sing and play guitar. But none plays as well as Banks, and certainly none can claim to play a toaster–with forks–while singing an ode to toast. “Yeah, Toast” even includes some French lyrics about (what else?) French toast. Unlike many comics, Banks does not rely on F bombs, or, for that matter, on any swearing or sexual innuendo. A few years ago, when Banks was in town working at the Comedy Showcase, a friend of mine took his preteen kids. He had researched Banks’s material beforehand and was pretty sure it would be appropriate. Banks didn’t let him, or his kids, down.
But this is not kid stuff. You start laughing at some of Banks’s material because of his delivery or because you think you know what the punch line will be. Then he pulls the rug out from under himself and surprises you with a verbal pratfall. For example, his falsetto delivery on one song, with the repeated first line “I’m wearing pink underwear and a teeny tiny sweater,” leads you in one direction; you think you know who his character is and where he’s going with that line. Then he delivers the second, and last, line with perfect musical and comic timing: “I really need to learn to do my laundry.” Or there is his song about driving through Iowa: “Corn, corn, corn, corn–look there’s a tree! Corn, corn, corn corn …” It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard some of his skits or shticks before–both times I saw him there were fans in the audience who sang right along with him on some songs–Banks’s delivery will make you laugh even when you know the lines as well as he does.
See you at Banks’s show at the Ark. I’ll be the one with the Advil and the wad of Kleenex.