Aftermath: Stephen Lynch at Verizon Wireless Theater

If anyone knows crowd control, it's Stephen Lynch. He has to. Just as he assured us in our interview, someone was bellowing out for "Almighty Malachi, Bowling God" after the evening's very first song Saturday night. Lynch improvised a short, two-line ditty instructing the fan to "bowl yourself into my nuts," and assured him "that's as close as you're getting to the bowling song, motherfucker!"

It is the talent of a veteran comic to chastise his audience and make them happy for it. No matter how many unruly, drunken fans shouted for their favorite songs, Lynch was able to head them off with either a goofy response like the previous example, or a short, sharp retort ("I am not a jukebox, assholes!") without seeming resentful and causing the audience to lapse into that awkward "accidentally slapped my little brother too hard while play-fighting and now he's running crying to Mom" moment.

Lynch's songs certainly help to establish the tone. Beautifully written, the clash between the coarse, often shocking subject matter with the serene and lovely music lends a spirit of playful anarchy to the show. Nothing is sacred, and nothing is to be taken too seriously.

The set moved fluidly from Lynch's banter about a dream he had where he was performing at this exact venue - except he was Prince - to periodic video segments shown on a giant projector screen above him, to duets with his friends ("sidekicks", rather). Most of the material played was from the new album, Three Balloons, but of course Lynch touched on a few fan favorites such as "Special Ed" and "Beelz" to the delight of the longtime fans in attendance.

Perhaps the best insight into the show came from its climax. Lynch and David Josefsberg, his castmate in the Broadway version of The Wedding Singer, were "improvising" a song about sidekicks when one of Lynch's cracks about the Holocaust offended Josefsberg, and he left the stage.

To apologize, Lynch launched into a somewhat melodramatic rendition of "Purple Rain," complete with new lyrics ("Red rain plus blue rain equals PURPLE RAIN, PURRRRPLE RAIN!"). Josefsberg and fellow comedian Rod Cone finally reappeared and joined Lynch, who descended into the audience for the final strains of Prince's show-stopper, urging "Come on, Houston, sing along with me!" just before belting out the highest, hardest notes.

"No? Maybe next time!"

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John Seaborn Gray