Sean Patton at The Bourbon | Comedy Review

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Lincoln doesn’t get comedians like Sean Patton often.

He’s had his own half-hour Comedy Central special. He’s performed on Jimmy Fallon, and is in the middle of a Midwest tour, dubbed the “European Winter Drama Tour.” As of Tuesday, he can add the performing at The Bourbon in Lincoln to his bio, as well.

If one of these things seems unlike the other, that’s because it is. Patton’s outsized performance completely flattened the sparse crowd at the Bourbon on Tuesday, and it’s clear he has much bigger things ahead of him.

Warming up the crowd were a host of locals — Lincolnites Grant Parsons, Joey Zimmerman and Drew Bohlke, and Patton’s European Winter Drama tour partner, Omahan Ian Douglas Terry.

The show got started late, and perhaps The Bourbon, which had previously hosted national comedian Doug Benson this spring, was hoping the sparse crowd of 30 would fill in. Unfortunately, it never did. The Bourbon is cavernous; even with only the front illuminated, a crowd that size gets dwarfed by the physical space of the venue. I was hopeful the show would move up to the smaller, more intimate Rye Room at the front of the theater, but they kept the show in the bigger stage.

Zimmerman made best use of the emptiness as he tried to work the crowd. Finishing a sprawling bit on self-pleasure, he asked an audience member, “Sir, how many times in a day have you masturbated?”

The man may have shrank from the question, but this was Zimmerman’s best line all night. His polite, self-effacing delivery was the only way that question could go over without seeming aggressive or tacky.

Terry, as with most of the times I’ve seen him perform, connected with the audience immediately. Many comics, in getting away from one-liners, will tell real-life stories with a long build-up of “had-to-be-there” minutiae before they really hit the payoff. Terry likes to tell stories, but it’s the tossed-off asides he hits on the way to the kicker that audiences really seem to get.

In the middle of a story about, well, pissing yourself in khakis and the shame of eating in a fast-food parking lot, he seemed to ad-lib: “Look at this,” he said to the audience, turning to his side, “Look at this side profile. It’s just all dick and gut.”

This story didn’t have a strong conclusion, but with asides like that, you don’t really care. The ride he takes you on is worth it.

As you would expect from the headliner, Patton was the class of the show. I mention he flattened the audience — and that’s exactly what it felt like. I haven’t seen as many comedians take up as much sonic space and energy as Patton. Without shouting, without an overloaded mic, he filled the room with his act.

Initially, Patton seemed put off about the large space, wandering the stage in an attempt to get comfortable. (Just an aside, but maybe The Bourbon can close a stage curtain or two next time?)

But once he found his rhythm, there was no doubt who owned the stage. He slowly, steadily built his set, until the audience was leaning forward, ignoring their drinks and waiting for what came next. As Patton hit a crescendo with his set — in a long impersonation of an anti-gay, misogynistic Christian comic —  I found myself wondering what was improvised and what was scripted. Every punchline, every set-up connected organically.

When he finished, Patton walked offstage to cheers from the scattered crowd. I hope he finds his way back onto a Nebraska stage soon.