Denis Leary and Friends – Douchebags and Donuts (2011)

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Comedy and Standup

Comedy is subjective. Regardless, some comedians do tend to find fairly universal appeal across the lines, but they do it by straddling milquetoast topics and never crossing any lines. Denis Leary isn’t one of those comedians. Most people find him abrasive, others find him unfunny for trying too hard to be controversial, and still others consider him a pale imitation of the late Bill Hicks.

Then you have the people – like myself – who enjoy his angry, outspoken rants and that song he wrote a few years back about being an asshole. In Douchebags and Donuts, Leary, two of his Rescue Me co-stars and comedienne Whitney Cummings team up for about 95 minutes of hit-or-miss comedy punctuated by some of Leary’s songs.

Leary kicks off the night with one of his songs about pedophilia in the clergy, a topic that has really been drained of all its juice prior. He quickly transitions into warning labels on the side of prescription drugs that he finds particularly hilarious and his opinion of the people willing to accept death as possible consequence of taking Viagra. Nothing ever feels all that fresh from Leary’s material, but he does a decent enough job as the warm-up for the three comedians who follow him. However, if you’re watching this expecting Leary as a great headliner (as I was) you’ll be a bit disappointed yet pleasantly surprised to find that the acts that follow are quite a bit funnier, mostly because they rely less on a gimmick (like drug side effects) and more on telling a story.

Up next is Leary’s Rescue Me co-star Lenny Clarke who talks about being fat, losing weight and beating your children to instill a sense of respect. If item number 3 in that list sounds like it might upset you, just know that the man does it from the angle of “it made our generation functional, why not theirs?”. Clarke is probably the second funniest act of the night and it’s due in large part to his ability to talk about being fat (a staple for lots of comedians) in a way that’s personal to him and then switching gears effortlessly into his other bits without missing a beat. However, seeing as how he precedes Whitney Cummings, who proves to be the most hilarious person to take the stage all night, even he pales in comparison.

As the lone representative of estrogen in the lineup, Cummings goes the “bitches be crazy” route talking about all the ridiculous social pressures women feel when meeting new people and, of course, how men and women differ in a wide assortment of ways. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking in subject matter, but she approaches it all which such hysteria and ferocity that she manages to overcome your hesitation to laugh and you just go with it.

Finally, another Rescue Me costar, Adam Ferrara, takes the stage and talks at great length about his fiancée and some of the asshole things he does and says that makes you wonder how she sticks around. He knows it. He enjoys it. His comedy comes from a more personal place than all his cohorts who preceded him on stage, and at times the jokes seem to land on deaf ears – and it’s awkward, but he moves on and by the end his set ranks about third.

Leary can do funny stand-up when he’s not trying so hard at shock tactics, but here he seems to be entertaining himself more than he is his audience. The entire show averages out to a decent night of comedy, but by no means could it ever be called a solid run. The laughs just barely edge out the silence and consequently it’s a show that seems to stop and go erratically. Making it nearly impossible to build momentum and get the endorphins flowing free.

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