Big Round // 2010 // 65 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 16th, 2011
The award-winning solo comedy show written and performed by John Kawie.
This is a difficult disc to review. In fact, as I write this, I'm not entirely sure where I land on it. Hopefully by the time I burn through a few paragraphs I'll figure it out.
At 47, John Kawie was an up-and-coming stand-up comic in New York City. But just as his career was hitting its stride, Kawie suffered a debilitating stroke and suddenly battling for a return to normalcy overshadowed his professional goals.
Following his excruciating rehabilitation process, Kawie decided to get back in the world of performance and working in conjunction with his peers and loved ones, crafted a one-man show that deals with the stroke and its after-effects head on.
What we have then with Brain Freeze is not a straight comedy routine, though it sometimes feels like it. It's also not a super-serious hour of introspection and testimony; though there are plenty of these moments strewn within the show. So what you have is this unique -- and at times disorienting -- slice of performance art that evoked a varied gaggle of responses from me. I was genuinely moved, slightly off-put, mildly amused, hugely impressed and, ultimately, wishing for a bit more.
Kawie's comedy is hit-and-miss, but what stand-up's act isn't? There were definitely times I felt that the jokes were forced and the audience was simply laughing politely. Still, kudos to Kawie for attacking his disability head on and framing it with humor; nothing defuses social awkwardness faster than self-deprecation and dick jokes. I just wish the gags were funnier.
The show tends to improve when Kawie gets into his story and recounts the tribulations of rehab and the fallout from the stroke, both physical (his left arm is near-useless) and mental (the title "Brain Freeze" refers to his lapses in memory). His performance is genuine and vulnerable and illuminating.
Now here I am at the end of this review and I'm still not sure how to classify Brain Freeze -- it's not all comedy, it's not all drama, and not everything is perfect, but...I liked it. And I think you will too.
The DVD: 1.78:1 widescreen, 2.0 stereo, and a lengthy introduction to the performance.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Round
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site