Al Lubel's Solo Show Al Alone and Why Lawyers Make Good Stand-up Comedians

Al Lubel onstage
Al Lubel onstage

There's a rhythm at work in the comedy of Al Lubel. It rumbles along,

a freight train turning into Morse code that becomes a sonic laser shot

directly into the brain. It's a rhythm rising from the Little Theater, a

black box in West L.A., where he holds forth with Al Alone, his one-man show for three Saturdays in August and one in September.

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Watching Lubel's act from the side of the stage, it's easy to imagine

him hard at work persuading a jury. His deadpan, wry smile belies a

stint of two years of criminal law practiced in Newport Beach. Lawyers

in comedy -- the joke that is the U.S. justice system notwithstanding --

are extortionately rare. Two who spring to mind are Cirroc, the Unfrozen

Caveman Lawyer, and Greg Giraldo. Neither currently practices law.

Every comic has his own rhythm: that unique heartbeat by which jokes

are recognized and welcomed. Lubel is a veteran who's shown up

everywhere, from Carson's show to Letterman's to the bank at which he

cashed his $100,000 Star Search check.

One-man shows are the logical progression of stand-up comedy, an

extended display of plumage from the days of caveman campfires, the

original audition process that made storytellers into bankable prospects

for mating. Lubel's training as an attorney serves him especially well

as a comic. Comedy is also about persuading people: to empathize, to

sympathize, to share that common bond of commiseration that is ever so

slightly warped. It's no surprise that Paul Provenza, host of Showtime's

stand-up comic sit-down The Green Room, recently renewed for a second season, is in the audience, laughing loudly along with everyone else.

Lubel talks about being an only child with a too-permissive mother. A

bed-wetter until 14, he observes how his overbearing mother emphasizes

every fifth word and so does he -- he's made his perceptions into an art.

"I have a lot of hate for my mother because she set me up badly for

life." Overprotective but indulgent, she catered to his every whim -- in

large part because, Lubel says, he wanted to see how far he could push

her.

"Stay in -- why take a chance?" he mimics his mother at the moment of his own birth. "You'll catch cold -- you've got a wet head!"

Shot through with anxiety and depression, he admits onstage, "A lot

of people ask if I practice in front of a mirror. Actually, this is my

rehearsal. I'm going to go home and do the real performance in front of

the mirror."

He stops, and starts eating, clearing up the audience's confusion:

"The show doesn't have an audience intermission -- it has a performer's

intermission." Morbid self-interest doesn't keep this Polish Jew out of

the dating pool. His first girlfriend was a Christian. "Her name was

Julie, so I called her 'Jew.'"

His self-centeredness has necessarily kept him childless. "I don't

want children. I didn't ask to be born. Well, my children are getting

their wish."

He talks about his terminal laziness, his perceived

narcissistic-personality disorder, being constitutionally lonely growing

up and how his grandmother shepherded him through that time. His voice

softens. The walls fall away. The audience, now completely hooked,

listens to Lubel's stories of the way his grandmother tempted him out of

bed with stories of gay-bar ruin and his need to become a lawyer. In

one luminescent, turn-on-a-dime moment, his grandmother, speaking

through him, thanks him for remembering to bring her to his one-man show

tonight, if only in memory.

In conversation with Lubel afterward, the topic turns to the ability

of someone to convince others. What's involved in convincing people, as

an attorney or as a comic?

"I thing likability is involved," he says. "When I did law for two

years, the jury had to like you. I remember representing a guy for drunk

driving -- it was my first trial -- and the prosecutor would make little

jokes to the jury, and they were laughing at him. He was like a

comedian."

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