Of all the Chicago stand-up comics who’ve emigrated to the coasts in recent years, Michael Palascak has yet to achieve the sort of mainstream success of someone like Hannibal Buress or John Mulaney. It doesn’t have anything to do with his material. Palascak has perhaps spent more time on the road (and thus in relative obscurity) than other Chicago ex-pats, honing his act in venues across the country. As such, he’s become the ideal club comic: someone who works in admittedly innocuous, PG-13 territory yet retains a strong command of both his craft and persona.
With his observational style, Palascak doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but onstage he seems genuinely perplexed by the sort of minutiae of everyday life. Jokes about bed-and-breakfasts (“It’s like a hotel . . . but in someone’s house”), Facebook, Starbucks—generally the kind of stuff that would sound trivial coming from a lesser comic—are bolstered by his inquisitive, Mike Birbiglia-esque manner of delivery. His charisma doesn’t hurt; neither does his affability. In a lot of ways, he represents the ideal antidote to the sort of unbridled cynicism that pervades much of contemporary stand-up. Yes, Louis C.K.’s misanthropy is brilliant and compelling, but a guy like Palascak, whose emotional scars run as deep as quarterbacking his high school football team to a winless season (“We even lost some practices that year”), helps us to remember the escapist value of comedy.