There are many ways for a stand-up comedian to gain a larger audience.
One creative method is to irritate “Last Comic Standing” judge Roseanne Barr to the point she tells you to go make love to yourself on national TV. In coarser, bleeped-out language.
Deadly funny Ben Kronberg, who will headline Liquid Laughs, 405 S. 8th St., on April 14-17, didn’t set out to enrage Barr. Being silent on stage was part of his act during the 2014 incident.
“The kind of bit that I opened up with was a bit where I basically stand there going through my notebook and not really saying anything — to kind of build tension,” he explains, phoning from his home in New York. “And then maybe 30 seconds or a minute in, I’ll say, ‘What, like you guys start working right when you get to your jobs?’ The joke is sort of wasting time at the job.”
Roseanne’s blunt take? “I think you wasted a lot of time up there.” They exchanged words. Barr used profanity. It made for sexy reality TV, and a shot of notoriety for Kronberg — even if it wasn’t life-changing.
“It did its job,” Kronberg says. “It kept the tetherball wrapping around the pole a little bit more.”
Roseanne isn’t the first audience member to be puzzled by Kronberg’s shtick. His low-key delivery, affinity for wordplay and pretzel-logic one-liners aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Or coffee. “I like my coffee like I like my women,” he deadpanned during his half-hour show on Comedy Central. “Sent back for not being hot enough.”
Steven Wright fans will appreciate Kronberg’s brain, even if the 39-year-old’s cleverness sometimes tends to be more R-rated. “Before I did comedy, I was definitely exposed to Steven Wright,” he says. “But one of the bridges of me really getting into comedy was Mitch Hedberg and Demetri Martin. I was really into Andrew Dice Clay growing up and George Carlin.”
Born and raised in Colorado, Kronberg didn’t even try stand-up until the ripe age of 25. It began after he sang at an open-mike night where he worked. “I had a guitar, but I wasn’t very good because I picked that up too late as well,” he quips. Someone suggested he do his silly songs at a comedy club.
Kronberg has appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “@midnight with Chris Hardwick.” But you can’t call him mainstream.
There’s something powerful about a comedian going right over the heads of some audience members while others are crying tears of laughter. For fans who do “get” Kronberg, the awkwardness makes the experience more personal and side-splitting.
“Theoretically, I would like for everybody to get it, but I can’t make everybody, which is fine. I’ve been doing it long enough to come to terms with it,” Kronberg says.
As for people who don’t get it? At least they’re polite afterward.
“Sometimes I’ll get, ‘Well, hey, that was really brave,’ ” he says bemusedly. “They can’t fully give a compliment: ‘Well, I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to say that I liked it or it was funny. I’m just going to say it was brave.’
“I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s OK. I’ll take it. At least you’re making eye contact with me. Now buy me a shot of tequila.’ ”
Neil deGrasse Tyson! Boise Music Fest!
▪ “Out of this world.” “Astronomical.” Online commenters this week used those terms to describe the $85 price to see “astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and popularizer of science” Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture June 15 at the Morrison Center.
A $25 student ticket is available. But VIP tickets are $150 and $250. (Plus fees for all.)
Maybe Tyson is trying to fund NASA by himself?
▪ Say what you will about the annual Boise Music Festival — it makes us better at music trivia. Without the outdoor Expo Idaho bash, when would we be forced to recall what year Coolio had his Grammy-winning hit, “Gangsta’s Paradise”?* Or remember the name of Nelly’s best-selling album?** Or know what season Daughtry’s frontman competed on “American Idol”?***
Those are your headliners June 25 — along with pop star Andy Grammer, the most current act on the oft-nostalgic festival’s bill. (Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good” was one of 2015’s top 10 best-selling songs.)
Answers: *1995; **“Country Grammar”;***Chris Daughtry took fourth on season five.