Kroll’s nostalgic comedy deserves hype

Sophia Venturo, Staff Writer

Umbrellaed by a glittering marquee, chatty friends and focused ushers loitering in a high-traffic lobby were all ready to laugh at anyone’s expense.

Comedian Nick Kroll’s Sept. 26 stop at Burlington’s Flynn Theater on his “Middle Aged Boy Tour” centered around off-color adulting, precarious adolescent impulse and flippant family affairs.

Julia Bliss

In his Burlington set, Kroll proved himself an honorable veteran of immaturity.

From the moment Kroll’s throaty, bellowing voice surged into the orchestra section to introduce opener Emmy Blotnick, anticipation of his chaotic comedic essence seemed to rumble through the audience and bounce off Flynn’s ornate walls.

Blotnick, another New York based stand-up comedian and screenwriter, performed an opening set that took the audience down rabbit-holes of Amazon reviews and self-help material that aid us all on, as Blotnick put it, “our quests for AN endorphin.”

Her allusions to her anxiety made the set feel like a live version of a scroll through a thread of depression memes on your Instagram Explore page and made Blotnick sparkle.

Blotnick’s dreadfully relatable testimony to millennial adulthood was a well-suited precursor to Kroll’s rogue Generation X energy. 

By the time he walked on to Estelle’s “American Boy” in a two-piece gray suit and blinding white sneakers and asked Burlington “What the fuck is up?”, the audience already got what they came for. 

Before Kroll slung any of the regular tour material at us, he predictably opened with a brief roast of Burlington: Polling the audience for “Carhart motherfuckers” and “pull-over sweater bitches.”

After publicly condemning Aunt Jemima, blowing a long raspberry after the words “Burlington Bagel Factory” and being unable to resist pitting himself against Bernie Sanders, Kroll moved the set forward into more universal content.

Unlike his frequent comedy collaborator John Mulaney, whose stand-up chattily frames the injustices of being a kid, Kroll’s material on this tour flipped that switch. Kroll’s set focused on pointing out all the insufferable qualities of childhood and their translation into adulthood.

As the tour’s title suggests, Kroll offers this perspective from the unique position of being a self-proclaimed adult-child.

Kroll riffed on the perils of older siblinghood, romantic fall-outs and spurts of morning self-loathing, crafting parallels between these moments of full-grown misery and specific nuances of being 11 years old.

For example, how getting your birthday presents stolen at a post-breakup rager and finishing the night third wheeling in the back of your friend’s Corolla is simply derivative of wetting the bed at a fourth-grade sleepover and needing your mom to pick you up at 1 a.m.

Although he performed some of the same material on “The Tonight Show” on Sept. 18, Kroll seemed raw and sometimes unrehearsed onstage, engaging with hecklers and stumbling through a few set-ups with the occasional interjection of “Fuck, man…”

The lowkey admissions of heartache and loneliness littered throughout the set gave the show more heart than we can sometimes expect from Kroll, unrestricted from collaborators or network censors.

In fact, aside from a few disclaimers about his balls and a fair share of fart jokes, Kroll was on his very best behavior at Flynn.

Kroll leaned away from the almost sickeningly perverse and character comedy and drew more from his own experience: details of the unavoidable embarrassment of vaping, snack addiction and getting ridiculed by a gas station attendants for not knowing how to drive a stick shift.

Only when he weighed in on the corporate food advertising landscape did we get a sprinkle of the classic Nick Kroll raunchy material: “Carl’s Jr. . . .remember when their whole campaign was just ‘you wanna fuck this cheeseburger?’”

The thematic content of the set required Kroll to portray a man-child, but the choice to acknowledge those behaviors, dress them up with just a little sweetness and expand their relatability shows an evolution in Kroll’s solo comedy.

Kroll’s comedy paired nicely with material built for anyone with a few vices or vague juvenile memories.These specific details made the set a mid-week treat for Burlington and a clean sweep for Kroll.