Allen generates laughs on primitive level

TELEVISION

December 07, 1991|By STEVE MCKERROW

Tim Allen has invented a whole new language of comedy. Call it the primate school of laughs.

"Primitive, grunting baboons, that's what we are!" chortles Mr. Allen in his latest cable special, "Tim Allen Rewires America," premiering at 10 tonight on the Showtime premium service (and repeating Dec. 10, 19, 22 and 27).

He proceeds to prove his thesis that basic non-language "is so descriptive . . . simple, but effective." He grunts and barks in hilariously expressive ways, much of it having to do with what he calls "men's stuff."

And his repertoire of sounds is greatly enhanced by a mobile face with a big grin that makes him seem like a big kid sharing secrets -- along with some perceptive, intelligently written adult material about the differences between the sexes.

"I want to be a masculinist," he says, explaining, "not anti-feminist, but just into men's stuff."

What kind of stuff? His routine ranges through such male identity material as power tools, big cars, spitting, burping and performing a few other activities not comfortably mentioned in the newspaper.

The engaging comedian is the star of the ABC series "Home Improvement" (Tuesday nights), the only clear hit of the fall season. (It ranks in ninth place for the year in the Nielsen ratings.) But viewers should know that the do-it-yourself TV show host in the series is really Mr. Allen's funny stand-up comedy persona, familiar for the past several years to comedy fans from club and cable appearances.

And some of the material in his cable special is startingly crude.

"I don't invent 'em -- I just had the lack of class to bring 'em up," says Mr. Allen late in the act.

One short bit, in fact (about a potential extension of the man-to-man sensitivity movement), even seems to surprise Mr. Allen himself.

"I slipped into an unusual zone there, didn't I?" he asks the live audience at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor, Mich. But he segues easily back to safer ground, saying, ** "A man needs his own zone," such as a messy workshop that smells bad so that women will stay out.

Actually, Mr. Allen's stuff on women is as funny as anything in the show, as he notes, "women do their own weird stuff."

And he's once again into the physical/sound effects arena, as he deftly demonstrates the art of "bikini waxing."

"Now there's something no man would ever do," he asserts.

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