Critic’s Choice

May I Help You…Dumbass?

Comedian Matt Besser was the last person I thought would put together a show based on fucking with people’s minds on the phone. After all, he’s a cofounder of one of the most intelligent, subtle, stirical comedy troupes to come out of Chicago and make it big, the Upright Citizens Brigade. For the first part of his one-man show he sits or stands behind a desk and plays one bizarre conversation after another, taped without permission, with dupes whose only sin was misdialing the help number for a major Internet service provider and getting Besser’s Manhattan apartment instead. The numbers were so close that Besser’s phone rang almost constantly, and he began to pretend heĀ was tech support, dispensing lots of bogus advice. Cruel but funny, the taped conversations include one in which Besser does a very bad imitation of a woman’s voice and the guy on the other end starts hitting on him. Of course, anyone can get the easy “listen to how I confuse this idiot” laughs. Just ask the Jerky Boys and Steve Dahl. But besser doesn’t stop at that, exploring why he became obsessed with getting back at the anonymous people who kept calling him and how this obsession started to ruin his life. Especially moving is a hidden-camera sequence in which he videotapes his sister, who was his roommate at the time, delivering a blistering–and bang on–critique of his bad-boy behavior and emotional isolation. It’s the rare comedian who can make us laugh one minute and think the next.

The Chicago Reader August 31, 2001