Morphone Johnny | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Morphone Johnny 

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Morphine Johnny, at Voltaire. Perhaps because stand-up gigs in this city seem tougher and tougher to get, Second City-trained actor Jeff Ahern has taken his 30 minutes of material to Voltaire's basement. I'm not sure what his show's title refers to, but if it means Johnny Carson on drugs, it's a pretty apt description of Ahern's one-man late-night gig. Purportedly he's describing a day in the life of the author, but what this really amounts to is an extended Tonight Show-style monologue covering such groundbreaking topics as Paula Jones's looks ("Is it me, or does Paula Jones keep getting uglier?"), Bill Gates's net worth ("Four hundred million? That buys a lot of hookers"), chronic fatigue syndrome ("Hey, lady, you ever hear of coffee?"), and Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes.

With his energy, enthusiasm, and clean-cut altar-boy looks, Ahern is certainly affable enough, and he gets an A for effort. His imitations of Jimmy Stewart and Clinton are passable. But his performance also reminds us why comedy clubs keep going out of business. With so many faceless comedians memorizing the same rhythms and covering the same topical material, there's nothing you can see at the Laugh Inn that you can't watch in the comfort of your own home with a six-pack beside you. Ahern's got the patter down cold, but there's barely a hint of originality or inspiration in his show. Unless you're a scout for Star Search, there's little reason to see this by-the-numbers routine.

--Adam Langer

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