Hamell is an on-the-road musician by trade, a trade that needs to be supplemented from time to time by what he calls line job, like bar tending and serving pizza. He’s good at what he does onstage; I don’t know about the bartending or pizza serving. Testy, I should think, with the customers.
He was a touch testy with the audience for his opening show on May 27, as not all the jokes clicked. A punch line calling up the painter Jackson Pollack went over my head, although my own daily trade is to write about art. Maybe I’ve been in the Midwest too long.
Hamell is East Coast in spades.
He’s fast, he’s funny, he’s smart as the proverbial whip and somewhere in his psyche he has a feeling for family that can’t be shelved. The stand-up comedy part of this music/comedy performance is essentially the story of his life, neatly distilled and parceled out more or less chronologically. We learn he was blown away by the Beatles’ visit to these shores in 1964, when he was 10, that later he heard The Who and Jimi Hendrix — he knew where he had to be and has found that difficult place.
He has a disarming habit of coming around the microphone to speak directly to the audience, saying — in effect — we can be friends, let’s forget this artificial curtain. The metaphorical curtain, of course, doesn’t go away but the audience almost thinks it has.
Hamell leads us down dark paths, breaks our hearts with the story of his parents’ deaths, leaves us with the thought that “you must love ’til you die” and satisfies his audience after racketing them around the block by telling us how many lies he will tell his 7-year-old son as he grows up. No, Hamell will say, he never got high. No, never pre-marital sex. No. No. And we all know exactly what his son will make of that. Zip.
However, I will not tell you what he said, at another point, was on the tip of his tongue. You need to go to the performance to find out.
Performed at Know Theatre through May 30. See performance dates and preview here.