Comedy and music don’t always include comedic musicians or musically inclined comedians. Eugene Mirman, known as the annoying, “please like me” landlord on the hit HBO television show “The Flight of the Conchords,” played a side-project show titled, “The Cabinet of Wonders,” with musician John Wesley Harding (a stage name for a Briton by the name of Wesley Stace) at the High Noon Saloon Saturday.
The Cabinet is an atypical comedy-music show on many levels. Everyone performing was introduced in a short poem composed by the charming Harding. Included in this poem were the core duo of John and Eugene, along with a comedian by the name of Mark Bazer and the local talent that had been booked to open. The High Noon featured local talent The Zombeatles (a special, costumed performance by Madison’s Gomers) and Prestige Atlantic Impulse — a jazz trio including the Violent Femmes founder Victor DeLorenzo — to fill out the rest of the Cabinet. The actual show started with a few songs performed by Harding whose style can be denoted as a folksy kind of one-man Barenaked Ladies. The content was light in lyricism, but worked well in the context of The Cabinet. Harding’s songs were followed quickly by a comedic bit performed by Mark Bazer about a basketball pickup game, which was complemented with a slideshow operated by Mirman himself.
Mirman took the stage immediately afterwards for some straight standup. Mirman’s absurdist comedy takes a look at life from a sardonic perspective, and is at its best when tackling subjects close to the heart. Mirman’s description of a 12-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome as God is funny and somehow sensible, which is just how the absurd should work.
Mirman and Harding took the stage together in a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” The song was put over the top with an amazingly weird solo on some sort of electronic kazoo that set a precedent for all soloists to follow: continue jamming out until no one else is playing.
The different acts rotated with someone doing a standup bit or playing a song and then heading offstage every 10 to 15 minutes. This left the audience wanting more each time and kept things from getting stale. Initially, everyone did their well-rehearsed solo acts, but soon after The Zombeatles performed with Harding. This gave way to further crossing over. It was interesting to see how the talents in this all-over-the-place show collaborated and cooperated to bring solid performances out. As an encore, the whole Cabinet coalesced on a joke song about Mirman’s troubled hate affair with Delta Airlines, which brought everyone on stage to partake in lyrics that were hilarious in their hasty and ill-conception.
Mirman will return on April 26 with Jemaine and Bret as the opener for “The Flight of the Conchords” show at the Overture Center, so look for the Herald’s preview with an exclusive interview with Mirman featured a few days before the show.