While he is still known to juggle a few hats or balance a burning cocktail napkin on his nose, Pat Hazell is slowly turning away from stunts and sleight-of-hand to focus on his low-key explorations of the thirtysomething crowd's collective memory.
"I have a really good eye for that whole era of plastic toys--Mr. Potato Head and Etch-A-Sketch and that sort of thing," says the 28-year-old comic, magician and juggler. Hazell gets a special delight from dredging up dormant memories, drawing a reflexive laugh when he reminds the audience of some forgotten childhood icon.
For instance, there's his routine about those green plastic soldiers. On stage, Hazell likes to act out the various poses ("bazooka guy," "bayonet guy," "sniper guy") and wonders aloud whether anyone else felt compelled at Christmas to "use your soldiers to attack the plastic Nativity scene?"
Hazell's clean-cut and gentle reminiscences have earned him comparisons to Jerry Seinfeld, with whom he is good friends. They have toured together, and Hazell served as a "creative consultant" on the summer replacement series "Seinfeld."
"It's a lot of material for a network show for one brain to come up with," Hazell explains. But he has not decided whether to continue working on the show, which was renewed for possible insertion later in the season, because he is afraid of being subsumed into his better-known buddy's career.
For now, his own career continues to accelerate, with television appearances on the "Tonight Show," on MTV, "Evening at the Improv" and other shows. He even wrote his own play, "The Bunk Bed Brothers," with which the Nebraska-raised comic toured several Midwest cities.
But while the TV and club appearances focus on his jokes, Hazell--who has been called a "one man variety show"--pledges to keep some of his magic and juggling roots in the act. "There's still signs of it," he says. "I'll always keep the things that I like."
Who: Pat Hazell, Paddy Morrisey, Don Barnhart.
When: Thursday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 26, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 24, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.
Where: Irvine Improv, 4255 Campus Dr., Irvine.
Whereabouts: In the Irvine Marketplace shopping center, across Campus Drive from the UC Irvine campus.
Wherewithal: $7 Thursday and Sunday; $10 Friday and Saturday.
Where to Call: (714) 854-5455.