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Two Kids Walk Into a Chuck E. Cheese’s . . .

Stand-up comedy for the junior set.

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James Campbell  

He’s never been to the United States, but British stand-up comedian James Campbell says he’s not at all nervous about his American debut at the New Victory this week. The 32-year-old has had a knack for making kids laugh ever since his Cambridge elementary-school teacher ceded Friday afternoons to his storytelling. Since then, he’s become a household name in the U.K. You might describe his shtick as Jerry Seinfeld meets Hugh Grant, as he stammers out observational riffs on the illogic of everyday minutiae: middle names, eyebrows, unusual animals, and anything (apart from potty humor and bad words) that’s popped into his mind during bath time. “I have about ten hours of material floating around in my head,” says the Johnny Depp look-alike, who admits to never writing any of it down. As a regular at fringey theater festivals in Europe, Asia, and Australia, he adds local flavor to his repertoire in two ways: “a conversation in the cab on the way from the airport and sitting in my hotel room watching local television.” One thing he doesn’t do is the usual silly rainbow wardrobe. Early in his career, friends told him to wear primary colors to keep kids’ attention, whereupon “I went right out and bought all black clothes, to make it harder on myself.” Though he admits that “it’s very fashionable on the London comedy circuit to have a go at Americans,” he says he’s going to keep his politics to himself: “I’m sure I’ll find other things in New York that are funny.” And besides, we all wear black, too.

New Victory Theater, 209 W. 42nd St., nr. Broadway (212-239-6200 or newvictory.org); $10–$30.


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