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Kurt Braunohler (through May 5, multiple showtimes)

  • Comedy Club on State 202 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Kurt Braunohler's stand-up is rarely edgy, but that doesn't make it predictable. Info/tix

Photo by Seth Olenick.

Photo by Seth Olenick.

Effervescent and goofy to an almost cartoonish extreme, Kurt Braunohler has long served as a reminder that "alternative comedy" doesn't have to be abrasive, confrontational, or transgressive. That said, his latest, 2017's Trust Me, finds the stand-up increasingly weaving in more pointed political commentary amidst his usual trivial pursuits. Or, as he literally puts it in his mischievous high-pitch tone, "I got a lot of strong opinions about shit nobody cares about." On the album, he calls out a series of figures and, well, things that wouldn't be plotted in the same constellation elsewhere, attempting to take Jimmy Buffett, fudge, saltwater taffy, Fuddruckers, Mercedes-Benz, the 2012 movie Everest and anyone who's ever climbed Mount Everest, and the Irish down a winking peg.

Braunohler deftly mocks holding grudges and outrage culture while making astute observations in his bits (like how Jimmy Buffett exploits post-colonial segregation and exploitation of native populations), though as of late there's a sharp uptick in tackling more uncomfortable truths. Trust Me's title refers to the album's mission: He wants to chip away at his own white male privilege and "undermine the authority unfairly assigned to white male speakers." The new punk-rock, Braunohler says here, is to be white, dress in a nice suit, and misinform people at the RNC.  This from a man who admits he looks like "a camp counselor at a camp that only teaches feelings" and in a nearby breath confesses "I'm gonna try heroin tonight and I'm so scared I'm gonna love it!" Braunohler is weird in all the best ways: You don't know where he's heading with his next bit, but he's able to mine sincere laughs and insights no matter what.  —David Wolinsky