“Humor is something that really can transcend all barriers and divisions between people who are so polarized right now.”
Dahn Brickner said he has liked manipulating puppets since he was 8 years old.
Since then, while accepting responsibilities as a marketing and business writer, he occasionally would make time to appear in comedy clubs, using puppets as his medium, sometimes during open mic nights and other times as a paid performer.
Now, a few months away from turning 61 and describing health problems that prevent him from doing continuing computer assignments, he is joining with another comedian, Billy Ray Bauer, to test out some new routines in a show called “Live & Laugh.”
The two will be appearing in a dinner and comedy show Friday evening, Oct. 21, in a private section of Shield’s Pizza in Troy. The 90-minute show follows a pizza-pasta dinner, and the comedians bring in a small platform along with lighting and sound equipment.
“The show packages up two guys who have worked together before,” Brickner said. “I’ve done this for my entire life, but this is an adult use of puppetry. I have characters I’ve featured at many comedy clubs in the metro area.”
Brickner, who addresses his act to baby boomers, has a segment about a Jewish senior trying out a Jewish dating service.
“I found that the way to really face the aging process with some degree of acceptance and some degree of grace is to laugh about it,” Brickner said. “To me, humor is the ultimate outlet in life.
“There are few things that are too sacred to joke about. Humor is how we handle things. When we get older, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, what’s happening to us together, that’s a pretty desperate situation. I find release and comfort in humor, and I think a lot of people do.
“Joking about aging and embracing it and talking about what’s inherently funny about it is a great thing.”
Bauer, who has a more general comedy act, has been appearing in clubs for 35 years and has been seen on Comedy Central and Just for Laughs on TV.
Brickner’s interest in puppetry started by watching Paul Winchell with puppet Jerry Mahoney and buying Winchell’s recordings to learn the craft of ventriloquism. When Brickner was 10, his father took him to a puppet show performed by Willy Tyler and puppet Lester, and that served as further motivation after going backstage and meeting the entertainer, who did some improvising with his own and Brickner’s puppets.
Although Brickner performed at kids’ parties before starting high school, he stopped because he didn’t think it was cool. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, started working in the corporate sector and returned to some ventriloquism after marrying and becoming the father of two.
He performed for his own children and then moved into bookstores before giving up ventriloquism again while doing some comedy writing for corporate occasions.
“Five or six years ago, I decided to pick up the puppets again,” said Brickner, who lives in Shelby Township and thinks of himself as culturally Jewish. “I sold some of the kid-oriented puppets, and I bought professional puppets made and customized in California.
“I have a Trump puppet and a Clinton puppet and I would do comedy like that, but it’s not always amenable to audiences. Most of the comedy I do is joking about the aging process.”
Brickner, who met Bauer at a comedy club, has appeared at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, Big Tommy’s Parthenon and Comedy Club in Novi and Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale. He gives his new act an R rating.
“Humor is something that really can transcend all barriers and divisions between people who are so polarized right now,” Brickner said. “It is the notion that we can all put everything aside and laugh about things that we share.
“Because my material focuses on the inevitability of growing old and being able to laugh about it, I think that’s a barrier crosser, something that allows us to find something in common and laugh together. Laughter’s very important.”
“Live & Laugh” starts seating at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at Shield’s Pizza, 1476 Maple Road, Troy. $28. eventbrite.com/e/live-laugh-tickets-400711838897.