‘Live & Laugh’: Adult humor from a ventriloquist focuses on aging

Dahn Brickner and his puppets

“Humor is something that can really transcend all the barriers and divisions between people that are so polarized right now.”

Dahn Brickner has said that he has enjoyed manipulating puppets since he was 8 years old.
Since then, while taking on responsibilities as a marketing and business writer, he sometimes made time to appear in comedy clubs, using puppets as his medium, sometimes at open-mic nights and other times in as a paid artist.

Now, months shy of turning 61 and describing health issues that prevent him from continuing his IT assignments, he joins fellow comedian Billy Ray Bauer to try out new routines on a show called “Live & Laugh”.

The two will appear in a dinner and comedy show on Friday night, October 21 at a private section of Shield’s Pizza in Troy. The 90-minute show follows a pizza-pasta dinner, and the comedians bring a small rig with lighting and sound equipment.
“The show is about two guys who have worked together before,” Brickner said. “I’ve done this all my life, but it’s an adult use of puppetry. I have characters that I have featured at many metro area comedy clubs.

Brickner, who directs his act to baby boomers, has a segment about a Jewish senior trying out a Jewish dating service.

“I’ve found that the way to really deal with the aging process with some degree of acceptance and some degree of grace is to laugh about it,” Brickner said. “To me, humor is the ultimate outlet in life.

“There are few things too sacred to joke about. Humor is the way we handle things. When we get older, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, at what happens to us together, it’s a pretty hopeless situation. I find liberation and comfort in humor, and I think a lot of people do.

“Joking about aging and embracing it and talking about what’s inherently funny about it is a good thing.”

Bauer, who has a more mainstream comedy act, has been appearing in clubs for 35 years and has been seen on Comedy Central and Just for Laughs on television.

Brickner’s interest in puppets began by watching Paul Winchell with the puppet Jerry Mahoney and buying Winchell’s recordings to learn the craft of ventriloquism. When Brickner was 10, his father took him to a puppet show performed by Willy Tyler and the puppet Lester, and it served as extra motivation after going backstage and meeting the performer, who improvised with his own puppets and those of Brickner.

Although Brickner had performed at children’s parties before starting high school, he quit because he didn’t think it was cool. He then earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, began working in the corporate sector, and returned to ventriloquism after getting married and becoming a father of two children.

He acted for his own children, then moved into bookstores before giving up ventriloquism again while writing comedies for corporate occasions.

“Five or six years ago I decided to take up puppetry again,” said Brickner, who lives in Shelby Township and considers himself culturally Jewish. “I sold some of the puppets for children and purchased professional puppets that were made and customized in California.

“I have a Trump puppet and a Clinton puppet and I would do a comedy like that, but it’s not always accessible to the public. Most of the comedies I do joke about the aging process.
Brickner, who met Bauer at a comedy club, appeared at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, Big Tommy’s Parthenon and Comedy Club in Novi and Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale. He gives his new act an R rating.

“Humor is something that can really transcend all the barriers and divisions between people that are so polarized right now,” Brickner said. “It’s the idea that we can all put everything aside and laugh at the things we share.

“Because my material focuses on the inevitability of growing old and being able to laugh about it, I think it’s barrier breaking, something that allows us to find something in common and laugh together. Laughter is very important.

“Live & Laugh” begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, October 21 at Shield’s Pizza, 1476 Maple Road, Troy. $28. eventbrite.com/e/live-laugh-tickets-400711838897.


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