Comedian Kevin Pollak makes a joke of his relative obscurity near the opening of a new edition of the "HBO Comedy Hour" tonight, but Baltimore viewers actually may recognize him right away.
The funny comic played crazy cousin Izzy in "Avalon," filmmaker Barry Levinson's evocative 1990 ode to his own growing up years in Charm City. In fact, the film credit is mentioned briefly in "Kevin Pollak: Stop With the Kicking," premiering at 10:15 p.m. on the premium service.
Like most of the "HBO Comedy Hour" installments, this one is a mix of Pollak's stand-up act (as taped at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts near San Francisco), and some skit-style taped material.
But in this case, the latter is actually pretty funny: a black-and-white spoof of Madonna's "Truth or Dare," in which David Steinberg is seen as the director trying to make the obnoxious Mr. Pollak seem warm and lovable.
As Mr. Pollak says in another context, "It's not gonna happen."
And the stage material -- Mr. Pollak performed his act at Baltimore's Slapstix Comedy Club during the filming of "Avalon" -- is mostly pretty funny, too.
Especially good are his impressions. He does a bit claiming that whenever he is stopped for speeding he does another character for the police, including Peter Falk (as "Columbo"), Dudley Moore (from "Arthur"), and Dustin Hoffman (from "Rain
His George Bush is dead on, too, and not terribly complimentary. The president, he says, "is kind of a cartoon character at this point, kind of this mad, deranged substitute teacher."
In fact, he suggests Bush came up "with this Ken Doll running for vice president" (Dan Quayle) expressly to steer too much scrutiny away from himself.
And a segment on the movie trend toward super-violent, superstar heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger is funny and accurate at the same time.
On the scale of cable comedy crudity, Mr. Pollak ranks relatively low, preferring a brand of humor that depends more on astute ZTC observation than shocking language and content. However, there is some adult-oriented material, including a spirited defense of the Pee-wee Herman case in Florida last summer.
The funniest thing about Mr. Pollak, however, is that throughout the show he may be reminding you of someone else, but you just can't figure who.
Guess who? His mannerisms and speech patterns seem to be a sharp, if entirely unconscious, take-off on talk-show host Regis Philbin. Really!