Craig Shoemaker has been performing stand-up for almost three decades. He’s had specials on Comedy Central and HBO. His awards have included “Comedian of the Year” and “Best in Philly.” I got to check out Shoemaker’s live show recently at the Lake Norman Comedy Zone in Cornelius, NC.
While I have been to the Comedy Zone in Charlotte this was my first visit to the Lake Norman location. It is upstairs above the Galway Hooker Irish pub, or as Shoemaker quipped, “in an attic standing in front of the owner’s shower curtain.”
Shoemaker was correct that the room was sparse, but it was definitely upscale with large tables and ample seating. This was a plus for a night when Shoemaker not only packed the house, but at times had people visibly rocking in their chairs with laughter.
The best way to describe Shoemaker’s style is to compare it to a middleweight boxing title fight where the fighters have heavyweight strength. In other words fast, ferocious, and unrelenting. This was not the usual setup, joke, punchline. It was knockout punch after knockout punch for a solid hour and forty-five minutes.
A large portion of Shoemaker’s material was about his life as a husband, a father, an ex-husband, and an ex-husband again. His discussions comparing length of marriage to the number of pillows on the bed and trying not to laugh as his teenage son makes off-color jokes at the breakfast table were both relatable and hilarious.
Shoemaker also uses audience interaction to compliment his material. One of the funniest bits I have seen in years, if not ever, was Shoemaker asking audience members to make machine gun sounds like we did as kids. As you can imagine each person sucked worse than the person before, a scene that had the audience in stitches and visibly amused Shoemaker to no end.
Of course audience participation can go horribly wrong. Midway in the set a couple came in late and virtually announced themselves to Shoemaker. Instead of being rattled, Shoemaker blew the audience away by speed-talking his way through his act in order to ‘catch the latecomers up.’ It was amazing not only for the performance factor itself but also to see audience members laugh at punchlines that they had already laughed at minutes before.
Even though it wasn’t the actual closing, the capstone of the set was Shoemaker’s signature bit, The Lovemaster. Imagine the creepiest guy at the bar using the most innuendo-based pick-up lines you can think of. An example: “Do you know anything about real estate, because I need to know if this is a lot?” It is difficult to describe in text, but Shoemaker, in a sexy-ish, low-key delivery nailed that line and dozens more like it.
In the end, the entire set killed. Shoemaker’s primary goal is to make you laugh, and he achieves this in spades. And I’m not talking about chuckles here. These are cheekbone cramping, forehead stretching, belly laughs. When you walk away from a Craig Shoemaker show, you don’t just know you have been entertained, you actually feel it. To use a cliché that The Lovemaster himself would approve of: it hurts so good.
About the Author: Darren Staley is the host of Atari-winning podcast Dylan Brody's Neighbor's Couch, based out of North Carolina or Los Angeles. He is known in comedy circles as "Who?" or "Oh, That Guy." Darren's two biggest fears are spiders and Paul Provenza.