Review: Violet Krumbein’s “Human Painkiller”

Dazzling. Startling. Laugh-out-loud hilarious. Violet Krumbein‘s one-woman romp is called Human Painkiller, and for good reason, because I’m not sure how anyone can still feel pain after a half-hour with Krumbein, unless you’re hurting from laughing so much. In black tights, sparkly gold miniskirt, fanny pack and tap shoes, Krumbein grabs your attention from the start and never lets go in a multi-character farce of outrageous proportions.

Some may compare Krumbein with Gilda Radner. I think of her show more as though Radner got to play in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. There’s a song-and-dance number about hating pills, several love interests, happy fun glove, flashbacks, sound cues and a downright dangerously silly sex scene. At one point, Krumbein declares: "It kills me that such a beautiful woman has such horrible mental problems." You’re meant to think of this as a moment of self-deprecation. And yet I don’t find anything wrong with her at all. Director Megan Neuringer said she didn’t exactly try to rein Krumbein in, but rather has worked with her in terms of structure so the audience "knows this is all deliberate." It’s not haphazard at all. It’s very deliberately absurd and funny.

In a note to friends on Facebook, Krumbein warned: "the show is offensive to Russians, Jews, Gays, Old
People, Activists, Health Aides, Rich People, Epileptics, sufferers of
Von Willebrand Disease, Healers, and Inventors." More importantly, it’s only offensive to people who lack a sense of humor.

Go see Violet Krumbein in Human Painkiller, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15 at the UCB Theatre in NYC. Dates in November and December to be scheduled.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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