Raanan Hershberg is a Louisville comedian on the rise, working hard at local and regional gigs. This weekend he is bringing a different kind of humor to one of his regular stomping grounds, The Bard’s Town.
His performance will no doubt be funny, but it will also be mixed with equal parts stronger and stranger emotions, as Hershberg again steps from the world of comedy into the world of the one-person show.
Hershberg sat down with Insider Louisville to discuss his career in stand-up, and his upcoming one-person show “Please Someone [email protected]#k Me.”
Anyone who has dipped their toe in Louisville’s growing comedy scene has probably caught Ranaan Hershberg’s act. Maybe you’ve seen him at The Bard’s Town roasting fictional characters like Batman, or historical figures like Lincoln. He’s done sets at the Laughing Derby, and his first forays into stand-up were open mic nights at The Comedy Caravan.
He’s working hard to build a rep on the road, gigging in other cities and states. He’s spent time making people laugh in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, the Dakotas and Indiana. Sometimes he plays small clubs in medium sized cities like Indianapolis or Cincinnati, but he’s just as likely to do one-nighters in “small weird towns,” like the evening he spent in Only, Ohio, famous for having “more white squirrels than any other place.”
Hershberg has a filthy mouth and a profane sense of humor, though he can work clean, like when he’s doing one-nighters in churches in tiny towns.
“There’s clean, and then there’s church clean,” says Hershberg. He laughs, perhaps remembering a specific church. He then points out how strange it is to be in a room knowing that “the only other Jew besides you is on the cross.”
Hershberg has a keen eye for the strange and the out of place, especially when he’s the fish out of water. Many of his jokes revolve around alienation or incongruent situations. This eye for odd makes good jokes, but it can have a poignant side, and he mines his own discomfort for hilarious results.
“Before I got into comedy I was writing screenplays,” remembers Hershberg. He found it frustrating to “work for a year, and only have seven people read it.” This is the opposite of stand-up, where he “can think of a stupid dick joke that day and have somebody laugh at it.”
“I got hooked on the immediate gratification,” he recalls, but adds that “there is something fragmented about standup.” He misses the sense that a piece of work has “some kind of organic unity.”
With a one-person show, Herhsberg says he “can have (his) cake and eat it too.”
“Please Someone [email protected]#k Me” is Hershberg’s third one-person show, but it is the first that features all new material, and the one he thinks is closest to the artistic vision he has.
His first one-person show, “Broke, High and Horny,” was a collection of poems and stand-up. “I find something really appealing in a tonal shift,” says Hershberg. That show made the audience feel highs and lows of emotion, he says, but it lacked a thematic unity. It was also mostly recycled material.
The second show, “Crying behind 3-D Glasses,” had thematic unity, but Hershberg felt it lacked the highs and lows. About half of the show was existing material, and the other half Hershberg “formulated” to tie it all together.
Hershberg’s newest show revolves around his college sex life, (or if the title is any indication, lack thereof). It combines thematic unity, a broad range of emotions, and all new material.
“It’s not the most original or profound topic,” Hershberg admits. While it’s true that this subject could turn a one-person show into yet another college-age quest for sex, I’m betting Hershberg’s eye for the strange and knack for self-flagellating humor will elevate the material.
“Empty sex is an interesting thing to me. There is such a brutal irony in two bodies coming together,” says Hershberg, strengthening my suspicion that “Please Someone [email protected]#k Me” will present a more complicated view of the sex-quest narrative.
Hershberg also is smart enough to know that many solo projects sink due to lack of outside input. He’s recruited Scot Atkinson, artistic director of The Bard’s Theatre and co-owner of The Bard’s Town, to direct the show.
Over the last few weeks, Hershberg has been previewing the show at clubs in Indianapolis and Cincinnati. It’s similar to the process many stand-ups use when generating new material. You can never really know what works until you do it in front of an audience once or twice. By the time the show hits The Bards Town this weekend, it should be primed and ready for action.
Or, you know, at least trying to get some action.