Jacob Balshin Makes a Conversational, Candid Debut with Thirty and Breathing Funny

Comedy Reviews Jacob Balshin
Jacob Balshin Makes a Conversational, Candid Debut with Thirty and Breathing Funny

How do you mark a milestone birthday? Some revelers go for a big bash with family and friends, others a dream vacation, or a splurge purchase… and then there are people like Canadian comedian Jacob Balshin, who choose to celebrate by filming their debut comedy special.

Taped at the Toronto comedy club Nothing Fancy, Thirty and Breathing Funny is a short and sweet introduction to Balshin’s (mostly) laid-back style of comedy. He takes to the stage with a shrugging confidence that’s so endearing he can get away with his mid-set bursts of idiosyncratic laughter at his own bits. And hell, he has every reason to break; between his clever word play and off-kilter way of looking at the world, Balshin’s jokes are killer. Not everyone can land a bit about bodily fluids on carpet, but he sure can. His frankness is matched only by his self-deprecation, making him a clear crowd favorite. Balshin’s set is also accentuated by ingenious editing that is sparing and well-placed enough to feel like a treat rather than a crutch. 

Balshin covers plenty of ground in 35-ish minutes, describing his ideal date (taking shrooms together), recalling a girlfriend coming out to him, and outlining his surprisingly wholesome reasoning for his preferred type of porn. Far too many comedians these days try to stretch out their material to the standard 60 minutes (or longer, unfortunately), so it’s refreshing to see a young comic (and despite lamenting about turning 30 and being old, Balshin is young) willing to break convention. Every minute of the special counts; brevity is the soul of wit and all that.

Balshin’s relaxed set is punctuated by a trio of songs (the best being an ode to his mohel) that interrupt his easy, casual flow. He really commits to these numbers with the intensity required to sell a musical bit. In fact, the juxtaposition is at times reminiscent of the Flight of the Conchords TV series, quickly transitioning from unassuming, conversational jokes to a highly stylized performance. He’s a deft and, of course, hilarious lyricist, however, it’s not quite enough to justify the abrupt tonal shifts.

As Thirty and Breathing Funny comes to a close, Balshin debuts his final song, which is the shaggiest, but also the most inventive. He incorporates elements from his skillful crowdwork (his back-and-forth with an audience member about tripping is a definite highlight) to end the special with a silly yet somewhat dark flourish. By the end, Balshin’s sure to have you laughing so hard that you’re breathing funny, too.

Thirty and Breathing Funny is streaming for free on YouTube.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin