More a cabaret act than a play, veteran comedy writer Hal Kanter’s “Laughing Matters” is a loose framework upon which several vet comics hang their acts. Such is the group’s appeal that, in the audience of the performance reviewed, the “new Hollywood” was represented by Fyvush Finkel. Westwood Playhouse has become for the moment the Old Jokes’ Home.
Show is divided into two parts, both tied to a fictional benefit for Tempura House, “a home for lightly battered women.” (These are the jokes, people.)
Opening section takes place backstage, where comics trade war stories; then action shifts to actual “benefit,” where they go into their routines.
The material varies for the most part from well-worn to threadbare: This may be the last place on earth where a comic is still inquiring “Where do they get the McNuggets?” and one comic delivers a lengthy Dan Quayle gag.
More common are mildly scatological references, often with respect to the aging process; ethnic humor, including at least two Polish jokes; and domestic stuff.
On the other hand, many will regard this material as a comfortable throwback to the ’50s or earlier, and these guys certainly are pros.
Kahane showed the smoothest delivery, and most off-the-wall story must have been Brill’s story of the funeral of writer Joseph Conrad.
Best reception of evening went to Frankie Pace, who combines props, vocal sound effects and dialect humor to great effect.
Kanter hosts the “benefit,” in what’s billed as his first professional onstage appearance in a writing career that dates back even further than his work on “Helzapoppin’ ” (1938).
Production is on the skimpy side, with minimal sets and canned music.