Subscribe now to and start applying to auditions!

New York Theater

Booth Daniels: Unconventional

Booth Daniels, who looks like a Dead End Kid dressed up for a job interview, doesn't so much invite you into his world as browbeat you into it with the blaring finesse of a midway barker. Once you're inside "Unconventional," however, he has a number of surprises you wouldn't have suspected from his -- let's say it -- pushy introduction. During a recent Don't Tell Mama stint, the guy almost immediately started spilling his story, but not in a straightforward manner. He's oblique, which is to say the inclusion of Randy Newman's "Short People" is his way of letting the audience know that all the noise he's been making in the first few numbers is compensation for his size.

Musically directed by poker-faced Glenn Gordon, Daniels is the class clown out of self-defense. (This is, natch, the explanation behind 75 percent of today's comedians.) He's gotten extraordinarily deft at it. He may spend a good deal of his time shouting into the mic, but often what he's declaring is smart and spur-of-the-cabaret-moment funny. Also, the more confident he is that he's won you over, the more he eases up on the perky pep.

Toward the end of his high-powered set, he even noted that his act "is growing up." That observation had already been substantiated by Daniels' abrupt mood shift into a moving take on Randy Newman's "Marie." (The singer-comic's interest in Newman is a giveaway to his preoccupation with the off-kilter.) The Daniels hour -- during which he sometimes comes across as Sam Kinison doing Pearl Bailey -- even has an emotional arc. That's because he eventually implies his truce with life by singing Ben Folds' "Learn to Live With What You Are." The moment could have been annoyingly bromidic, but wasn't. As off the wall as Booth Daniels initially presents himself, he knows exactly what he's doing and where he's going: far.

Presented by and at Don't Tell Mama,

343 W. 46th St., NYC.

Jan. 8-14. Remaining performance: Sun., Jan. 14, 9 p.m., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.

(212) 757-0788 (after 4 p.m.).

What did you think of this story?
Leave a Facebook Comment: