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The Pajama Men's humor falls flat

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

You know what it's like when your friends tell you a book is great, and the reviews you read say it's great, and the sample you read is pretty great and then you read the book and want it to be great -- and it just isn't?

That sums up the feelings had after watching "In the Middle of No One" by the much-lauded Pajama Men.

The New Mexico-based pair hasn't hit it big in the United States but has received all sorts of rave reviews in the United Kingdom and Australia. In fact, Woolly Mammoth Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz was almost bursting with excitement when he told the opening night crowd that he was bowled over two summers ago when he first saw the duo perform in Australia. He isn't alone in his excitement, as evidenced by kudos from others in the comedy world, including the Second City comedy troupe.

It's easy to see the positives and potential in Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen, whose high-energy, physical performances put one in mind of a young Dick Van Dyke, who was something like a living rubber band. Like Van Dyke, the two have the facial expressions and physical flexibility for which most comics pray.

Onstage
The Pajama Men: 'In The Middle of No One'
When: Through Jan. 6
Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW
Info: $35 to $55; woollymammoth.net; 202-393-3939

Like Van Dyke, Chavez and Allen build their humor on an array of gags. But unlike Van Dyke -- or even an edgy comic like Chris Rock -- Chavez and Allen's shtick comes across as sterile and, frankly, misogynistic, in a high-school-kid-laughing-at-a-woman-with-large-breasts sort of way.

So what's the difference, you might ask? Rock certainly is racy and politically incorrect, and veers toward downright crude and juvenile.

But comedians such as Rock laugh at themselves, too, or at least bring the audiences into the jokes in a "we cool kids know this is ridiculous, right?" kind of way. And when Rock or Eddie Murphy make fun of minorities, well, it is different. Watching two white guys make fun of women and adopt the verbal tones many associate with minorities just wasn't amusing.

I'm not suggesting the duo is making missteps. In fact, many in the opening night crowd openly roared throughout much of the 60 minutes the duo was onstage.

But whether the Pajama Men build their humor around a hospital where they poke fun at someone on a life support machine or at a bar where a bird verbally mimics a woman having sex or even shows a time traveler's encounters with aliens, the humor seemed to often fall flat.

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