Anyone who sees John Bowman perform at the Brea Improv this week will understand why the Chicago Reader recently called him "one of the most frenzied and borderline comedians working."
Take his signature "Instant Party" routine.
"Get yourselves a coat that's a little too big for you, OK?" Bowman says as he puts on a large jacket. After buttoning it up, he retracts his arms from the sleeves and crosses them inside the jacket, then reinserts them through the sleeves.
\o7 Voila! \f7 Audiences inevitably go wild with laughter at the sight of Bowman, whose arms appear to be attached backward onto his body.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" he says frantically as he advises his audiences to "just go into any place where there's a lot of people and do this:
" 'Yo, man! What's up?' " he says, sounding like a rapper as he moves around the stage gesturing and hugging himself with his strange appendages.
With his bug-eyed intensity and his propensity for bizarre behavior, it's easy to see why Bowman also has been labeled the "psycho" comedian.
Actually, the actor turned comedian said by phone from his Los Angeles home last week, the "psycho" reference is the result of a combination of things.
One was his guest role on a "Miami Vice" episode in which he played one of the most evil characters in the show's history, or as Bowman says in his act:
"I played a guy on 'Miami Vice' who kidnaped 13- to 14-year-old girls, shot them up with cocaine, did terrible things with them and then dressed them up like dollies. . . . Anybody see it? It's got me a lot of baby-sitting work around the country."
As a stand-up comedian Bowman is not \o7 that \f7 crazed, but, he acknowledges, "in my act I give the appearance of being out of control. I do have a definite sort of style. It's hard to describe because it's not the same all the time. But there's always an element of anarchy somewhere in it."
Bowman calls his high-energy comedy style "emotional contortionism." An example is his riff on body odors.
Pacing the stage like a caged panther, he stares at the audience with his trademark bug-eyed intensity and proclaims:
"Something stinks! Things stink. Your breath, it stinks! You've got some armpits, they stink so-o-o bad!" Pointing to someone in the audience, he says: "You! Your feet stink. If you believe everything you hear on TV, \o7 everything \f7 stinks. . . . I don't know why we don't just come up with one product that dulls our sense of smell and get it over with."
In another bit, in which he says he once shaved off all his body hair because the woman he was dating wanted to go out with a swimmer, he ends up mimicking that all-over itchy feeling by jumping around the stage like an out-of-control Jerry Lewis.
And in a bit in which he describes himself as a "sensitive" male, he impulsively jumps off the stage and hugs another "sensitive" male in the audience.
The Michigan native, who turned to comedy only three years ago and is already headlining at clubs around the country, said his acting background has been a definite influence on his comedy style. When he's talking about something on stage, he said, he actually \o7 feels \f7 what he's saying. Of course, this could also be because tends to talk about himself a lot in his act.
"What I try to stay away from is what everybody else talks about," he said. "Basically, if I find myself talking about something everybody else is talking about, then I stop talking about it."
Actually, he added, "I'm a little disappointed, but nobody else but me is talking about \o7 me \f7 in their act."
Who: John Bowman.
When: Thursday, Feb. 6, and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 7, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 8, at 8 and 10:30 p.m.
Where: The Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Brea.
Whereabouts: Take the Lambert Road exit off the Orange (57) Freeway and go west. Turn left on State College Boulevard and right on Birch Street. The Improv is in the Brea Marketplace, across from the Brea Mall.
Wherewithal: $7 to $10.
Where to Call: (714) 529-7878.