Pollak recently costarred in the peculiar Rob Reiner sitcom Morton & Hayes. There, he played half of a ’30s comedy team, a swaggering wisecracker who didn’t realize that he was the dopey straight man. The show wasn’t very funny, but Pollak was terrific — brassy, amusingly insincere, endearingly shifty-eyed.
On his own as a stand-up comic in HBO Comedy Hour-Kevin Pollak: Stop With the Kicking, taped in the San Francisco Bay area, Pollak has no character to inhabit, and he’s rather disappointing. His Morton & Hayes swagger is replaced by an insouciant saunter, as Pollak strolls around the stage talking about the poor quality of fast food, the dumbness of Dan Quayle, Pee-wee Herman in a porno theater…See the problem? Nearly all of Pollak’s subjects are ones we’ve heard hundreds of comedians tackle over the past couple of years; his material is stale even before he tells his jokes.
It also doesn’t help that the director, comedian David Steinberg, periodically interrupts Pollak’s routine to show us black-and-white backstage vignettes — Pollak getting nervous before a show; Pollak accosted by an actor playing an annoying fan — that are woefully unfunny. Pollak’s best onstage moments occur when he takes a so-banal-it’s-hip premise — imagining, for example, what it would be like if Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo shared a house with two black rappers in a —Three’s Company-style sitcom — and makes every character come to life with sharply accurate impersonations. C+