As a fan of stand-up comedy, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't know much about John Pinette or his brand of humor before watching Still Hungry. Every TV spot I ever saw for him, made his stage show look like a non-stop Lewis Black rant with the focus placed squarely on food. Having watching his 80 minute long special, I am happy to report that my initial impression wasn't entirely accurate. While I am still a fair distance off from labeling myself a 'fan', I can understand the appeal of what he has to offer on stage.
Although Pinette covers a variety of topics in his show, it is safe to say that he loves talking about food. In fact, his focus is more singular than I have seen from any comedian in quite a while. Too often, I find comics nervously skipping around from topic to topic because they don't have an effective theme to tie their material together. Pinette lunges to the other extreme by taking minor detours for slice of life vignettes only to quickly return to his first love, food.
He makes his obsession quite apparent from the start by riffing on the dangers of placing a Weight Watchers center right next to a Coldstone creamery. From there he marvels at the countless cake shows that populate the TV landscape before settling on the audacity required to label oneself the 'Cake Boss'. As the husband of a cake decorator, I especially enjoyed this segment. When Pinette suggested a drinking game centered on utterances of Fondant, I felt myself quickly warming to him.
After expressing his disdain for arugula and frou-frou paninis, he launches into an extended bit about weird retail practices. They include the rampant use of coupons at Bed Bath & Beyond stores and the hard-sell tactics surrounding warranties supplied by electronics stores. This is one of the weaker segments as Pinette gives in to his baser instincts and turns the bit into a screamy, one-note joke that overstays its welcome. Fortunately, he is quick to redeem himself with a sharply observant bit about the mysterious role of gluten in our food.
A fun bit of storytelling sees him at a Rib Festival in the Iowa State Fair. While the material for this segment is fairly run-of-the-mill, it does afford Pinette the opportunity to bust out a creepy-cute voice that made me think of Gollum on a bender. After trudging through another take on present-day flight restrictions (honestly, TSA searches are the airline food of modern comedy), Pinette offers a few tales from the road with mixed results. His story of performing in Canada is one of the highlights of the show but it is followed by a long, dry stretch that closes out the act with him affectionately ragging on Scotland.
I'm a little torn about Pinette's performance here. While it's clear that a good chunk of the show is right in his wheelhouse, whenever he strays into foreign territory like store warranties and the perils of air travel he tends to falter. This also has the unfortunate effect of making the show seem much longer than it is. Time flies when you're laughing your ass off but it slows to a crawl during the awkward patches that don't quite work. While Pinette's material never feels wildly original or edgy, he understands his fans and seems to deliver as per their expectations if the crowd response is anything to go by. You simply have to decide if an hour and change of food gags is your cup of tea.