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.
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
"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
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
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
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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
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