Comedy Review: Comic Dave Konig with Musical Director Elliot Finkel

June 21, 2021 | By | Add a Comment

Elliot Finkel and Dave Konig

Three-time Emmy-winning actor Dave Konig’s comedy show, playing at Don’t Tell Mama on various dates through August 29, is a laugh-a-minute, Borscht Belt-style joke-fest aimed at middle-aged audiences.  For a solid hour, Konig hurls forth his Seinfeld-like observational humor (“Don’t you hate it when…?) in the loud, high-voltage fashion of the angry comedian.  There are lots of Jewish jokes and tirades about technology, do-it-yourself weddings, customer-service representatives, airline screw-ups, and the old-fart commercials one is now forced to endure when watching baseball on TV.  But the best bits are Konig’s show business-related material.  He tells hilarious stories about auditioning for and performing in the musical Grease (he played deejay Vince Fontaine in the 1994 Broadway revival), spins a witty fictitious tale about working on the less-than-compelling spin-off “Law and Order: Parking Violations Bureau,” and closes the evening singing a side-splitting rendition of “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” affectionately parodying the cabaret world’s boundless appreciation for expressing personal individuality.  

Konig’s performance is well-polished and tightly rehearsed.  The way he so acutely calibrates an acceleration—his delivery growing progressively faster and faster as he nears a punchline—is extremely impressive.  It’s clear he has been performing these jokes for a long time and, though consistently funny, Konig’s show needs some updating.  A long (and somewhat distasteful) segment on the controversy surrounding bakeries providing cakes for gay weddings screams “yesterday’s news.”  Current-events comedy must always to be up-to-the-minute, topic-wise.  

Yet it seems what Konig really wants to do with this show is to explore a new concept of cabaret performance that combines comedy and music.  In collaboration with his musical director, Elliot Finkel—whose exuberant piano-playing opens the evening with a spirited arrangement of “That’s Entertainment” followed by a great comic bit that reveals his clowning talents—Konig follows his lengthy stand-up routine with what feels like an experimental try-out of this, still under-developed, comedy-with-music concept.  The idea is promising, but in this phase of its development all we get are straight-ahead jokes from Konig followed by a quick improvised piano “response” from Finkel, à la the standard “ba-dum-bump” punchline punctuation from a drummer.  There is not much in the way of interchange between the two performers and, at the opening performance on June 13, as the segment progressed, Konig even went so far as to admit that he didn’t think the musical punctuation was really helping the humor. 

But that’s okay!  As live performance venues are slowly beginning to open up, and we are all starting to figure out how to venture out and move forward in all aspects of our lives, I can think of nothing more exciting than to be along on the journey with two gifted performers as they try to find new ways to re-invigorate their work as cabaret entertainers.  We should be thankful that venues, such as Don’t Tell Mama, are re-opening the spaces for such explorations to be practiced and shared.

Dave Konig and Elliot Finkel will be appearing next at Don’t Tell Mama on July 25 and August 29.

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary

About the Author ()

Lisa Jo Sagolla is the author of "The Girl Who Fell Down: A Biography of Joan McCracken" and "Rock ‘n’ Roll Dances of the 1950s". A choreographer, critic, and historian, she has written for Back Stage, American Theatre, Film Journal International, and numerous other popular publications, encyclopedias, and scholarly journals. An adjunct professor at Columbia University and Rutgers, she is currently researching a book on the influence of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County on America’s musical theatre.

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