Aside from his TV career, Canadian actor Chris Leavins made his name by creating one of the most popular series on the Internet – 100,000 hits per show by using a $300 videocam and uploading broadcasts of himself, in his apartment (somewhere between Silver Lake and Echo Park, to judge from the images he beams onto a screen in his one-man show), and displaying photographs of people’s cute pets. His one-hour live performance is a kind comic exegesis on the essence of “cute” — and his larger purpose, residing somewhere between that of David Lettterman and Ira Glass, is trying to find the stories that bind us. In cream suit and sneakers, Leavins’ humor derives partly from his slightly forlorn expression, which he beams out like a laser whenever the audience responds with “ooohs” and “aahs” to the broadcast picture of a baby kangaroo in a pouch, or a kitten with a bow. No sentimentalist, Leavins deadpans that “cute” lasts about six weeks; then you’re in for 12 years of cat poop and matted fur. His broader cultural insight is on the fleeting value we place on superficial attraction – pet photos that have little purpose to anyone but ourselves — and which are relegated like wornout mementos, the detritus of our lives, perhaps like our lives themselves, to ashes or dust. He found one photo of a woman with a dog, which Leavins purchased simply because, he explains, he could not reconcile himself to an image that held so much meaning for somebody at sometime being simply forgotten. And so he invented a story around the photo, imbuing it with a new meaning, which is exactly what we do to a photo, or a painting, or a story, we call a classic. Leavins’ droll act has a kind of muted beauty and profundity lurking beneath his otherwise snappy and amiable presentation. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; though Dec. 14. (323) 960-7785.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 7. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008

LA Weekly