Patheads of the world insist that affable Pat McCurdy's the man
by Allison Stewart
"We could call it cabaret, but cabaret can be so precious," says Milwaukee musician Pat McCurdy of his semi-legendary live act. "We think of it as musical comedy, or an interactive whatever. It's more like a meeting with friends."
McCurdy's shows are an indescribable blend of standup comedy, barb-tinged folk and audience participation. He has been known to distribute Swedish fish to audience members (on Treat Nights) or to invite fans onstage to sing McCurdy staples like "God," or "Nude Party" (on Amateur Nights), all the while expounding on everything from Chekhov to "Seinfeld" to the Christian Coalition.
McCurdy is whip-smart, unfailingly affable and avowedly liberal, something that can place him in direct opposition to his often frat-boy-heavy audiences. But McCurdy's act improves with familiarity.
"I've only bombed a few times," he says. "I have my standard bit that I pull out, and you would be surprised how fast people buy it. You think that people today are so jaded, but they're not."
McCurdy spent years in bands like Yipes! and the Confidentials before venturing out as a solo act. He is now backed only by a sidekick-roadie named Pipe Jim and an added bassist on weekends. McCurdy has released several CDs, although he knows his live act is impossible to translate. In addition to his standing Monday night gig at Lounge Ax, and frequent shows at Hoghead McDunna's and Sidelines, McCurdy travels weekly to places like Madison, Green Bay and Minneapolis, where Patheads--second only to Deadheads in their devotion--are legion. Patheads can remember lyrics to songs Pat sang only once, in 1995. Some attend upwards to 100 shows a year.
"They can be a little strange," McCurdy says fondly. Websites have set up in his honor, though he studiously avoids them.
"I get enough feedback when I play. I don't need some guy online Siskel and Ebert-ing me. It's like, 'Hey, you try getting up there every night,' you know? I'm not trying to change anyone's life. I don't even do it for the money anymore," says McCurdy, who by some estimates earns an income well into six figures. "I just want to amuse them, give them a reason to go out every week."
McCurdy, who figures that some years he plays upwards of 340 shows, denies that the constant traveling is stressful. "Every day, when I'm getting up at noon, I'm thinking, 'I'm the luckiest man on Earth.' There's people on Broadway in the chorus line of 'Cats' who've been doing the exact same show six days a week for eight years. I'm lucky compared to them. At least I get to travel."