David Heti Recorded An Album. It Was Ok.
David Heti is one of my favorite comedians to watch. There’s something mischievous about him. He has a way of cleverly leading an audience down the rabbit hole, peeling back the layers as we go, bringing us further, deeper, into the darkest recesses of his mind. Stripping away our armor and inhibitions as we go, without us even knowing it. Along the way he unleashes these carefully manifested bursts of stark observation and brutally funny truths that are wry and strange and eccentric and savagely honest.
The world’s most fucked up Easter eggs. Neurotic darkness abounds. Â Â Â
Heti has a persona onstage that can feel frenetic and frantic at times, unhinged almost, but it’s all very calculated and structured (well… kinda). He can make us feel like we’re watching him play Jazz up there — like every thought is sudden and erratic and in the moment. And maybe a little chaotic. But it’s precise. He knows exactly where he wants to take us, and he knows that when we get there he’ll have us to the point where we’re laughing in the face of ideas and opinions and commentary that might normally make us so uncomfortable we’d squirm in our seats. The fact is, we’re putty in his hands. We never stood a chance.
When he gets to these big “A-Ha” moments, when he has an entire room pause for a fraction of a second, and let out one collective groan or gasp of “oh NO are we really actually going there” — followed by a volley of laughter. That’s the magic of the man at the mic. It’s the peak right before the sudden drop, the moment of the ride when we finally throw our arms up and let it all go. When this happens, Heti’s smirk appears, there’s a glint of ‘Devil-May-Care’ flickering in his eyes like a kid who’s just popped off his first firecracker in a room full of stuffy aunts and uncles.
That’s his stamp, the way his comedic mind works. And it comes from a place that bares the marks of a true writer.
He’s one of the most literary comics on the Toronto-Montreal beat (he works this sort of Toronto-Montreal-NYC triangle, like a nomadic scholar straight from the pages of Kerouac). He’s not your traditional “road comic” or “club comic”, whatever those words mean. He’s not going to spend much time surveying the landscape of the room for artillery — David Heti probably doesn’t much give a fuck where the young couple next to the stage are from, or what the table of middle aged men with their rows of empty Molson bottles do for a living. He’s probably not going to riff on the single lady with the embarrassing laugh, or call back to something the host said about so-and-so’s wedding anniversary and earnestly congratulate them in between bouts of goodnatured barbs and applause breaks. Â
He’s here to give us the Heti treatment, to give us a glimpse of his specific worldview. His voice. He’s here to say the things it would never occur to us to say, but we’ve all maybe thought about. In ways we’d never be able to say it ourselves. He can take something uncomfortable, or dark, or scary, or strange, and hold it up to the light and show us how HE would examine it. And why it’s so absurdly funny in the first place.
His punchlines travel across the space of a room like prose. Intricately woven, with all the most unconventional parts spit-shined to show through. Race? Sex? A miscarriage? Death? Love? Safe words? Fetishes? He likes to paint a picture — and it can be unnervingly funny without being ever being pretty, per se. But what’s pretty anyways? Give me raw & real, thank you. There’s something in his lush, languid (and yes hilariously horrifying) descriptions that always sort of reminds me of the world of William S. Burroughs — if you’ll pardon another allusion to the great ‘Beat Generation’ writers that Heti and myself share a mutual appreciation for.
And hey, like any of us — sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. (To be fair, with Heti it usually does. And those are percentages of note in the world of standup) But the thing about Heti is, when it works, it changes the whole tone of a room. It REALLY works when it works, and we notice, and we aren’t likely to forget it for the rest of the night. I’ve seen Heti disarm and destroy throngs of unimpressed hipster kids with their arms folded and apathy in their eyes, in all their holy little West Toronto haunts. I’ve also seen Heti duke it out with tables full of loud, red-faced drunks in a London sports bar. Some nights, it’s a losing battle for us all.
Â But when Heti is doing his thing, and the magic is in the air — we all pay attention. I guess you might call that a “comics’ comic”. But I like to hold out hope that we live in a world where he’s actually just… an audience’s comic. After all, if we aren’t here to dance for the educated then why the fuck did we ever come here in the first place?
Please at least tell me you’ve heard of Jack Kerouac?
David Heti’s latest molotov cocktail of cleverly understated absurdity is out now. It’s an album. That album is called ‘IT WAS OK‘, as the title of this article would suggest, and its well worth a listen Scenesters!
Heti also hosts a podcast that sits among my personal favorites. “I Have A Problem With David Heti”. It’s a decidedly new take on an art form (yes, podcasting IS an art form and Heti recently appeared on an episode of my own Forever Young podcast), and it’s riddled with those hidden moments of the bizarre and uncomfortable that Heti is known for.
For that album, that show, and all things David Heti related, readers are kindly directed to www.davidheti.com.Â