From: Minneapolis Tribune

Date: June 16, 1982

Headline: Comic Makes World of Difference at Cabaret

Subline: A review

Author: Steele, Mike

Joel Hodgson has only 15 minutes on stage at the Comedy Cabaret, wedged between sets by the musical comedy troupe Modern Entertainment, yet he manages to leave an indelible impression and almost single-handedly save an otherwise desultory evening.

Hodgson has created a comic character that gets stronger and better defined as his performing experience grows (he's only 22 now). Sporting a hang-dog look and an idiosyncratic punk haircut, Hodgson doesn't so much enter a stage as he creeps on. It's as though he's still wearing the scars of having to give book reports in junior high school and would really rather be elsewhere. He just knows he's going to bore you silly, but he's got to get through this.

His introduction, delivered in a quiet, quivering monotone, is along the lines of "Hi, I'm Joel Hodgson and I'm 22. OK?"

Dressed in a white-coated tux, he's ostensible a magician. He asks an audience member to think of a card. Then he puts the deck in some crazed machine that winds up and throws the cards all over the stage. Hodgson crawls after them and tries to find a card that's, well, close to the one being thought of.

But the comic magic soon veers off into some surrealist nether world that Hodgson populates. "How much time do I have?" he asks. He's told 15 minutes. He then reaches into his ever-present bag, pulls out a stack of dynamite, sets a timer on it and says, "I guess we all have 15 minutes."

He knows he can get a red candle to change color, if it thinks it can change color. He then pulls out a Lizard King Godzilla puppet and has it hypnotize the candle. There follows a dizzying string of non sequiturs, throwaway lines, and crazy props (including a tuna casserole that turns into a machine gun).

He pulls out balloons and explains that he can make more than 700 different animals out of them and will now do so. But after the first he admits they all end up looking like dogs.

Hodgson's world is a fascinating, vulnerable, existential one in which he seems to have only scant control, yet manages to constantly surprise and delight as he hangs on. He does go off into his own little world sometimes but, as he explains, "They know me there."

I have a feeling that we'll all get to know him a lot better before he's through.