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Name: Noah Garfinkel

Age: 21

Resides: Allston

Dislikes: Raisins, bunnies.

In the span of an hour, Noah Garfinkel tells me two jokes about Hitler, one about the Holocaust, and another about a coat-hanger abortion. This is somewhat surprising considering the 21-year-old comic usually opens his sets with innocuous bits about cereal and dried grapes.

But, in general, Garfinkel doesn’t consider himself an "edgy" comic. We’re sitting in a booth at the Hong Kong in Harvard Square — two floors down from the Comedy Studio, the Cambridge stage where he performs stand-up a few times a month. Garfinkel’s boxing up his lo-mein-and-crab-rangoon leftovers and insisting that he really doesn’t know what sort of comic he is. "This is why I would never attempt to write a bio about myself — I have no idea." He entwines material about being five years old with a monologue about having no ass. ("It makes it awkward to play sports ... the ass-slapping that goes on … after you score a point, they’re like, ‘Ah, good job,’ for me they’re hitting the back of my penis.") He threads playful musings about Cookie Crisp cereal, with jokes about strange sexual urges with cars, and raisins ("Raisins: stop fucking with my food! You ruin everything! And sometimes you like to pretend you’re a chocolate chip and my cookie tastes like shit!").

Unlike most stand-up comedians, the Allston resident doesn’t talk about cultivating a "persona." He just claims to be himself: a dimpled Jewish kid with "cute bangs," as Comedy Studio owner Rick Jenkins describes Garfinkel’s fluffy locks, a slight lisp, and a charmingly twisted sense of humor. Although the Emerson College writing, literature, and publishing major is also minoring in political science, Garfinkel isn’t topical. "I don’t think anybody wants to hear political humor from a guy who can’t grow a full beard."

Born and raised in Houston, Garfinkel didn’t do stand-up until the spring semester of his freshman year. He came to Boston with three childhood friends who collectively founded a sketch-comedy troupe, FancyPants. But Garfinkel found himself more drawn to stand-up — he doesn’t like acting. So he and one of his pals tried out at Remington’s. Eventually, he ended up at the Comedy Studio where he's opened for the likes of absurdist comic Eugene Mirman.

Garfinkel has performed in Houston during school vacations, and says that, not surprisingly, the biggest difference between the audiences is their prejudices. "I used to open with a thing about pink shirts: how regular straight guys wear them and they’ll say, ‘Pink is the new black.’ The punchline was, ‘When did it stop being the old gay?’ Down there, people are like, ‘Yeahhh! Screw people who wear pink shirts.’ Here, people are like,’" he says this in a tiny voice, "‘I don’t like that.’"

Next semester, Garfinkel is going to Los Angeles for an Emerson-sponsored internship program "to try to be famous like everybody else." In the meantime, he’ll be working part-time at the Cheers gift shop — an experience he has yet to mine for comedic material. "It’s too easy, I guess," he says. "Quite a few times, I’ve gotten, ‘Do you know my name?’" And he’ll be performing at the Comedy Studio where he’s been nurturing a whole string of jokes about a Holocaust literature class. "I wrote about how it’s impossible not to get an ‘A’ in that class, because no matter how badly you do on a paper, it’s not as bad as the Holocaust." He pauses. "That sometimes works, that sometimes makes people very, very uncomfortable."

Sitting there, cracking open a fortune cookie, he says neurotically, "I don’t know what you’ve really gotten outside of ‘This guy has a lot of jokes that are inappropriate.’"

So what are we missing?

"I like puppies, a lot? My best friend has a bunny? We like the bunny a lot?" He hesitates. "Okay, I was just saying it to sound nice. I really don’t like bunnies. It craps all over the place and you can’t call them or anything."

Noah Garfinkel performs this Thursday, October 6, at the Comedy Studio at the Hong Kong Restaurant, 1236 Mass Ave, Cambridge | $8 | 617.661.6507

Issue Date: October 7 - 13, 2005
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