Abe Lincoln: A One-Man Show at Cole Studio

Remaining Performances: Saturday, July 19 @ 3pm Friday, July 25 @ 7pm Saturday, July 26 @ 8pm

They say: “You probably know that Abe Lincoln was the 16th US president, but did you know he was a joke teller? See Abe tell his amusing anecdotes and relate some of his historical decision-making moments before your very eyes, moments before he leaves for Ford’s Theatre to meet his fate.”

Suzyn’s take: I’m fairly new to theatrical reviewing, but I’m certain it’s never a good thing when a reviewer of a comedy act has “Fozzie Bear” underlined multiple times in her notebook. Regrettably, this is the case for my notes on Scott Renz’s “Abraham Lincoln: A One-Man Show.” From the first minutes of the show, when Renz told a joke about how a lady with a feathered hat who fell down reminded him of a duck because she had “feathers on her head and was down on her behind,” I was exchanging what-the-fuck looks with everyone else in the room under the age of forty.

The old people, however, laughed consistently throughout the entire show.

I was sitting in front of a cranky-sounding couple in perhaps their late fifties. Moments before the show, the husband had looked around the performance space, which is essentially a room with chairs and benches, and observed:

“We could turn our sub-basement into a theatre.”

His wife blandly responded “They’d have a heck of a walk from the metro.” To me, that was funnier than anything that happened during the actual show, but sure enough as the lights came up the lady was saying how she wished she could remember all of those jokes to tell her grandkids.

Some grandkids out there just seriously dodged a bullet.

For the entire show Renz stands center-stage in his Lincoln hat, telling joke after joke, pausing after each to wait for the audience to laugh. The jokes have no connection to each other. The experience is exactly like being around my husband’s joke-telling great uncle from Clemson, South Carolina. To Renz’s credit, almost all of his jokes reference something Lincoln might actually have joked about, from P.T. Barnum to Temperance Committees to General Ulysses S. Grant. According to the autobiographical sketch Renz handed out, he gives talks to elementary school classes as Abe Lincoln and I totally believe he’s good at that. Lack of research isn’t the issue here—it’s lack of funny.

Renz ends with a passionate recitation of the Gettysburg address, which is tactically extremely clever as it is impossible not to applaud wildly at the Gettysburg address. But it also undermined the pass I wanted to give him on the lameness of his comedy. I get that not everybody has what I consider a sophisticated sense of humor, and yes, a solid third of the audience had a wonderful time, and I so want to say that’s enough. After all, there aren’t a lot of Fringe shows to which you can safely bring Grandma or little Stephanie, and this is one of them. Still, as the Gettysburg Address reminded me, Abe Lincoln was a really, really awesome human being. He kept America from tearing itself apart, he wrote words about justice that still resonate with us today, he worked to free a people from slavery and in the end, his actions cost him his life.

Abraham Lincoln deserves better than this show, and so do you.

See it if: You’re somebody’s goofy uncle, you like anecdotal humor or you’ve got a friend or relative who matches one of those descriptions and you’d like to share the Fringe festival with that person.

Skip it if: None of the above applies, especially if you’re David Herbert Donald.