Some veteran comics never lose their machine-gun timing. Take Henny Youngman. Please. Once a stand-up comedian, the 75-year-old Youngman sat on a stool at The Door last night and fired off hilarious one-liners at an astonishing clip. His droll, deadpan delivery made every joke start off like a stage announcement or the beginning of a long story. He then caught the listener off guard with a quick, surprising punch line. As the listener recovered from that one, Youngman was already off on another.
Youngman's gift is reducing every joke to its absolute essence -- almost always 25 words or less. This allows both a rapid-fire delivery and almost equal proportions of setups and punch lines. His jokes were nondiscriminatory; he attacked everyone: Poles, Italians, Jews, mothers-in-law, drunks, golfers, doctors and his own fiddle-playing (which he demonstrated). "I take my wife everywhere," he said fondly at one point, "but she always finds her way back."
In the opening set, stand-up comic Dale Stein tossed off some funny lines but also took many jokes down dead ends. Stein also played piano and sang some undistinguished cabaret songs with partner Karen Tate. Youngman, Stein and Tate return to The Door tonight.