LEO REICH: LITERALLY WHO CARES?! Brings The Comedy Downtown — Review
Leo Reich was bullied as a teenager. The young comedian grows somber as he recalls the abuse, lowering his head. The bully, he says, would often declare Reich a “pathetic gay.”
“So not bully, I guess more like”–Reich quite literally turns on his heel–“kind of a mean, oracle?”
It’s not just a great gag, but also a perfect encapsulation of Reich’s delightfully self-effacing style. The British comedian’s new show Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?!, opening tonight at Greenwich House Theater, is 70 uproarious minutes of Gen-Z self-flagellation, a hilarious tour through all the doubt and self-loathing writhing beneath the seeming confidence of Reich’s surface narcissism.
Every joke follows the same beats as Reich recalling that bully: a vague nod towards sincerity, swiftly offset by ridicule. As befits a generation meme-ing its way through the apocalypse, Reich never lets a serious thought linger before negating it with a gag. (“What even is love anymore, in the era of Love Island?”) The evening is all jokes, packed in tight and delivered fast.
If Reich does ever pause, it’s only before launching into a quick pop melody. The show has several punchy original songs, mostly devoted to Reich’s sexual humiliations. (These catchy, small bite numbers are by Six’s Toby Marlow). Then it’s right back into bits, with Reich even shouting down any attempts at applause: “We don’t have time!”
A run about Reich making all the wrong noises during sex is especially great, as are his reflections on the dating scene (“am I gonna log on to Hinge and just happen across someone else who likes traveling?”). Another particular highlight: Reich’s melancholy realization that one day, as a child, he performed his final somersault without even knowing it.
(English audiences will chuckle at Reich’s dutiful adjustments for a US audience: somersault used to be “forward roll”–apparently not a thing here–and Reich even refers to grade years, presumably just to keep things simple.)
If the avalanche of gags can occasionally feel exhausting, Adam Brace’s soft-touch direction gives the evening some forward momentum even while Reich literally paces in circles. Most importantly, Reich’s snappy, confident delivery always leaves you feeling in good hands. And no need to worry about audience participation–Reich would never let someone else hog his spotlight.
In a time of many concept-heavy one person shows (Kate, Inside) and deeply sincere comics like Hannah Gadsby, this show’s lack of any conceit feels like a conceit in itself. Yet with no emotional throughline to pay off, Reich seems unsure of how to conclude his evening.
He briefly shifts into a full-on meltdown, bouncing madly between too many recurring gags while Marlow’s songs go haywire. Insanity brought on by his own pointlessness would seem like an apt final turn for this piece, and might have given it some added heft. But Reich only goes there for a moment, then backs off and ends on an easier (though still hilarious) series of callbacks.
No great matter. Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?! is a deft and rewarding evening, and the announcement of a major comic voice who is clearly only just getting started.
Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?! is now in performances at Greenwich House Theater until March 11. For more tickets and information, visit here.