When fans of stand-up are often asked to name who stands memorialized on their fictional Mount Rushmore of Comedy, many select a varying combination of superstars: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, Sam Kinison, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy, Garry Shandling, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock.
But one name often overlooked during the deliberation process is Jim Breuer.
The Saturday Night Live alum, whose memorable characters and spot-on impressions graced NBC’s Studio 8H from 1995-98, is one of the hardest working stand-ups in the industry. If he’s not touring the country headlining comedy clubs, he’s traveling the world opening up for the legendary rock group Metallica. He’s done numerous live specials for Comedy Central and EPIX over the years and lived out his own frontman fantasy when he recorded a musical comedy album, Songs From The Garage, in 2016.
However, Breuer’s latest stand-up album, Live From Portland, serves as perfect evidence of how masterful of a storyteller, accomplished of an impressionist, and clever of a comedian he is and always will be, especially for those building a case for the Long Island native’s Rushmore inclusion.
Breuer recorded Live From Portland at the Helium Comedy Club while hosting Metallica’s northwest leg of their WorldWired tour in December 2018. The energy and enthusiasm for both his duties as emcee and seeing one of his favorite bands live again is nothing short of infectious. In anticipation of the imminent concerts, he brings back fan favorite impressions of Metallica members Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield (as well as former AC/DC frontman and good friend of Breuer’s Brian Johnson). These familiar bits never go stale despite how many times you’ve heard them.
That has a lot to do with Breuer’s talent as not only an impressionist, but as a creator of comedy. He doesn’t rely on the same scripted tropes to carry him through shows, but adapts to his impressions to match the flow of the conversations occurring at that moment. He is a comedic chameleon throughout Live In Portland, for he reads the crowd’s reactions, determines what thought or comment would glean the most laughs and morphs his material and delivery on the spot to maximize his punchline’s potency.
The one aspect of Breuer’s comedy that hasn’t changed since he first stepped foot on stage in 1989 is his truthful examination of life’s amazing lessons through the lens of his own personal experiences. As is typical with a Jim Breuer performance, he takes this introspective jaunt using his blend of indomitable candor and immense satirical supremacy as comedic catalysts to his narratives.
Throughout the set, Breuer operates with a mix of high-octane set-ups and surgical strike-like punchlines that keep the audience from catching their breath. Sometimes, Breuer is so super-charged, he has trouble breathing himself in between jokes. He bombards the crowd with care-free banter and quick-witted quips that do nothing less than strengthen the argument for his place on anyone’s Mount Rushmore.
While many will argue who inevitably belongs on the metaphorical monument until the end of time, there will be many who will declare, especially after listening to Live In Portland, how anyone could ever think to keep Jim Breuer off of it.
Jim Breuer’s Live From Portland is available April 5 via Virtual Comedy Network Records.