*NOTE: Since receiving these reviews, the show has been renamed "Voddville."
Theater review: Funnyman Dave Shirley's one-man brain-rattler
Click to Read the Denver Post Review
Theater review: Funnyman Dave Shirley's one-man brain-rattler

Some people just never grow up. Thank goodness.

Denver comedian Dave Shirley is a grown-up kid who loiters in the lobby of the Avenue Theater before his one-man stage comedy, wearing an old-man sweater, fishing hat, tie and spectacles.

Fooled me. I thought he was the dad of a girl I used to know in high school, so I said hi on the way in. Turns out it was the star of the show, who takes to the stage with a bit about an old man trying to figure out how to work his iPhone and other newfangled electronic gadgets.

And that only serves to launch him on an absurdly comic tangent that might best be described as rapper DJ Grandpa Simpson, working his hacking cough into a beatbox sample, aided by an iPhone app that makes his virtual teeth move to the sound of his voice.

Ridiculous, inventive and yet oddly old-school fun, all at once. That's pretty much been Shirley's MO since he built the Rattlebrain Comedy Theatre out of what is now Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret. In Denver, Shirley is the Super Dave of comedy — I mean, the guy comes with his own glitter cape.
The title of his new show, "Dave Shirley's Rattlebrain," is a nod to the ensemble that exceled at scripted and long-form improv comedy in Denver from 2002 to 2004, but now only re-emerges for an annual holiday sketch comedy at the Avenue Theater, "Santa's Big Red Sack" (returning Nov. 25-Dec. 24).

But who needs 'em? This is Shirley's show, which he promises will only be "the single greatest show on planet Earth." So, you know, keep your expectations modest.
It's all a charming ruse, this feigned arrogance (he brags that he's "sexy, average — and bathes daily!").

Shirley is at heart a multitalented street performer who spent his teen years doing whatever it took to make you stop and laugh — comedy, music, magic, shadow puppetry, juggling, you name it.
Ever since Shirley was 16, he tells us, he's wanted to put on a show that would put all these "useless skills" to use. He may now be 42, but he's very much that lonely kid who's always tugging at your sleeve saying, "Wanna see a trick?"

Shirley's bits draw from Chaplin, vaudeville, Christopher Guest, Monty Python and the early years of "Saturday Night Live." But he has a few super-cool media tools at his disposal here — like a four-square video screen that allows him to bring a blow-up doll to fleshy life. And an old-school ventriloquism act that's not old-school at all — the head atop his merry little marionette is actually a TV screen playing his own recorded voice.

That inherent absurdity runs all the way down into the show's marketing. "Mention this ad, and your ticket is $15," a Web ad says. But, just so you know, it's $15 even if you don't.

Shirley pulls off his breezy and admittedly socially irrelevant act with an acerbic and oblivious charm that puts us all in his living room. "Help yourself to my arms ..." he sings as a cheesy Tom Jones — and he means it. His closing act involves sharp objects and juggling — and, let's just say ... he leaves it all on the floor.
'Rattlebrain' At Avenue Theater: Side-Splitting Humor From Dave Shirley
Click to Read the Hello Denver.com Review
'Rattlebrain' At Avenue Theater: Side-Splitting Humor From Dave Shirley

On the prowl for some entertainment, I strolled down 17th Avenue and ran across Avenue Theater. A sandwich board out front declared the world premiere of Dave Shirley's “Rattlebrain,” starting in half an hour. Apparently it was my lucky day.

I paid my fare, bought a beer and settled in for my first experience at a comedy show. I've been to comedy clubs, and seen plenty of comedians, but “Rattlebrain” (which runs through Nov. 19, 2011) promised relentless comedy, via skits, songs, and physical comedy.

Figuring those sitting in the front row would be prime fodder for heckling/harassing, I wisely chose a seat in the center of the second row. But it turns out there is no safe place in the theater to hide from Dave Shirley.

I don't want to ruin the show for those who haven't seen it, but I will tell you that after being pointed out in the crowd by Shirley, the follow-up skit involved a cheesy love song, some hilarious special effects, and a blow-up doll. Enough said.

Shirley has been a street performer for more than 20 years, and has spent a good portion of that time on the 16th Street Mall. His show combines a little bit of modern technology (I'll just say Pac-Man/Adam and Eve...), nostalgic music, and his own brand of dry humor. He's definitely an equal-opportunity offender. His shadow shapes are truly amazing, and his use of music, coughing and farm animal sounds made me wonder what goes through his mind as he goes to sleep every night.

By the time I left, my cheeks and belly hurt from laughing. I am definitely the newest fan of Avenue Theater. I can only imagine what their next show will bring, with the title being “Santa's Big Red Sack”...

Something is wrong with Dave.

A failed street performer, Dave finds himself at the most pathetic point in his illustrious busker career as the “Silver Statue Guy,” the lowest rung on the street performer ladder. Not knowing when or how he got to this point in his life, Dave takes us on a roller coaster ride riddled with broken track in an effort to find out why and when it all went wrong.

His stops along the way include children’s birthday parties, a short lived stint as a Catholic Priest, a national tour of southeast Colorado, his unique talent to juggle lemons without the use of his hands and an endearing love story gone bad. In time, Dave understands what he must face and performs the most epic comeback performance in street performer history fulfilling his destiny to follow in his father’s footsteps.

This hilarious and pathetic journey is performed as a high-tech multimedia tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek story of an epic rise to mediocrity and a dramatic fall to redemption.