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At his strongest when addressing the largely student audience on generationally-specific subjects, stand-up B.J. Novak–best known from his role as Ryan on NBC’s “The Office”–riffed smartly on OnStar, iTunes, Bill Nye, Wikipedia and GoogleMaps during his Thursday night set at Clowes Hall.
An extended bit featuring a shy puppet desperately sought an exit strategy, but a large number of gems were mined from a series of absurd short jokes (bringing to mind, depending on one’s age, Mitch Hedberg or Steven Wright). Novak, for instance, claimed to have learned nothing in college, having double majored in Psychology and Reverse Psychology. He also noted that when he goes to a strip club, he’s like a kid in a candy museum.
The problem with the show, though, had nothing to do with Novak’s delivery, material, or stage persona. It had to do with time. Novak took the stage after 8:10 and was done by 8:50. Hardly “An evening with…”, this was shorter than an fringe festival show.
It’s pointless to speculate on whether or not Novak has enough material to offer a complete set. Stand-up comedy has an easy solution to such a problem. It’s called, an opening act. Better yet, Novak could have just had the lights turned up and answered quesitons for 15 minutes from the “Office” fans in attendance, who faithfully lined up after the show for a few seconds of up-close-and-personal-time with the talented guy.