Laughs for the Left and Right

Posted July 13, 2005 at 4:49pm

Comedy fans on both sides of the aisle, beware: Political comedian Will Durst is in town through Sunday, and his quick wit and execution of jokes will keep you smiling, if not laughing, the entire time.

The audience is “very bipartisan here, they can laugh at both sides,” Durst said in an interview following his opening night performance at the D.C. Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. He said he likes performing in Washington, D.C., because the audiences tend to be “more educated about the minutiae [of politics] — they know all the names.”

But for those who aren’t political buffs, following politics doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few laughs at a political comedian’s show — Durst said his shows are “comedy for people who read or know someone who does.”

When the pink neon lights flashed to signal the start of the show, the audience grew quiet, but not for long. Comedians Jim Short and Frank Schuchat appeared on stage first, and they had audience members roaring before Durst took the stage for his 50-minute routine.

Throughout the show, Durst, who said he gets the majority of his material from reading newspapers, touched on topics ranging from President Bush — “We’re political comedians, to us George Bush is pure gold” — to international issues — “Of course we have plans to invade Iran, we’re America. We’ve got plans to invade Manassas,” Va. And while he’ll reuse some jokes, Durst said “every show will be different chronologically — jumbled up, but the same repertoire.”

While Bush jokes seemed to roll off his tongue most often, Durst also commented on the military, the war in Iraq, Democrats, Republicans, gay marriage, suicide bombers, health care, environmental issues, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), among other topics. And no matter who the butt of the joke was, Durst had audience members erupting in peals of laughter.

Although Durst has been in the comedic game for some time now, he said he “had to work” to get where he is today. “It takes forever to learn the language, to be able to tell jokes,” he said, adding that in a way he considers himself a “stand-up journalist.”

Watching Durst on stage, cradling the microphone in one hand as he outlines the rim of his glass of coffee with the other, one would never guess that he was the least bit nervous. However, even after all these years, Durst said he still feels the anxiety before each performance, adding that “it’s an adrenaline rush you come to savor.” But before that rush hits, Durst said he needs about 10 minutes to himself “so I can focus” before going on stage.

While Durst said the opening night in D.C. went well, he explained that there are always jokes he thinks of after the show that he should have included.

“I was doing that today,” he said. “I go over my notes after the show and think, ‘Oh, I should’ve said this!’”

Durst will be performing at the D.C. Improv through Sunday, with Friday and Saturday nights featuring two showtimes. For more information and tickets, visit www.dcimprov.com or call (202) 296-7008.