Hot Tub with Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, feat. Leo Allen, Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman and Reggie Watts
Monday, July 30
Better than: Whatever happened in the Olympics last night. (Don’t tell me who won—I have money on Serbia.)
It is truly gratifying to watch two people with real chemistry, who are so in sync that the next great hook or huge laugh seems to be created in a special space between them, perform. There isn’t a New York duo that seems more comfortable on stage together than Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, a fact that colored last night’s edition of the variety show Hot Tub, the final installment with Schaal as co-host. Braunoher will continue the long-running Monday night comedy show on his own while Kristen takes the leap to Los Angeles.
Last night, billed as a send-off for Schaal, served as a look back at some memorable moments from Hot Tub’s first seven (!) years. Braunohler bounded onstage in a three-piece suit, which Schaal noted made him look like he was “from the ’40s… but it might just be the polio.” They let the crowd know that Hot Tub would continue and that Kristen would be back in a matter of weeks. In some ways, the goodbye that wasn’t really a goodbye was fitting—it was mostly absurd, but legitimate heart and sweetness were at its core.
It’s obvious that Schaal and Braunohler are friends who’ve been through real shit together; their connection spills over into their act, whether they’re re-enacting the world’s first phone call (between a horny John Smith and a blasé Pocahontas) or performing a re-enactment of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping of “1935… or maybe it was ’32.” The show’s freewheeling energy was infectious, and the guests picked up on it.
Janeane Garofalo, whose material tends to carry a more realist view, pulled off a fantastic rope-a-dope. She opened her set by showing off a calendar and collage of sleeping puppies—a kindler, gentler Garofalo, if you will. As her jokes started veering toward dying alone, atheism and her lack of desire to procreate, she asked the crowd to “remember the puppies.” (Her suggestion that newlywed couples save the chocolate fountain they ordered for their wedding to use on the day they sign their divorce papers was the clear joke of the night.)
Hot Tub has always been a place for comedians to try out new material, and Eugene Mirman approached the night as an outlet for his recent (mostly internet-based) frustrations. Upon reading a story about the shooting in Aurora, he showed a screengrab of a tone-deaf “You may also like…” suggestion: A link to a story about Usher and a life-support machine. Mirman is also a master of moments gone awry. When he lost his train of thought as his set drew to a close, he noted that the audience might be thinking, “He knows he’s still on stage, right?”
During the hosts’ final segment, Kurt read a few greeting cards he had written as a farewell to Kristen. Despite the absurtist tone of the evening, this segment did get emotional, with Kurt saying he hoped the two of them would be doing “Kristen Schaal is a Horse” in the Catskills when they turned 90. Schaal and the crowd looked legitimately touched.
The evening ended with a brief set from Reggie Watts that opened with a Chaplin-esque attempt to plug in his cables and ended with a soulful ode to Hot Tub itself. As Watts left the stage Braunohler thanked the crowd for watching them as “caterpillars” who were on the verge of becoming butterflies—because “they are beautiful and make a shitload more money.” He was joking, but he wasn’t wrong.
Critical bias: You can see Braunohler in this video for The Stepkids’ “Legend In My Own Mind,” in which I play Neil Young.
Overheard (of Schaal): “I love her so much on Colbert.”