Because of his star-making role in “Seinfeld” as David Puddy, the dimwitted boyfriend of Elaine Benes, Patrick Warburton has fashioned a career out of playing lovable lunks. But Warburton is also quick to point out that Puddy was a special kind of moron — one that made Warburton’s other characters look like veritable geniuses in comparison.
“Puddy was a dolt — just a huge idiot if you think about it,” says Warburton, who hosts four standup shows on two nights at Cobb’s Comedy Club this week. “In the shows that followed ‘Seinfeld,’ I tried to avoid the role of that purely vacant character. I would play characters who did idiotic things, but who were also conniving and had an intellect. I tried to move in a different direction a little bit and not pick the low-hanging fruit.”
While Warbuton had said that Puddy was the perfect character for him at the time, he has taken pains to avoid being typecast, resulting in a career that has been surprisingly eclectic, ranging from voiceover work to dramatic roles to more offbeat dark humor.
But most reliably, Warburton embodies the role of the doting dad. With his matinee idol looks, deep baritone voice and preternatural knack for comedic timing, Warburton is a perfect match for the role of half mischievous troublemaker, half groan-inducing dope.
“It’s important to me to be more than a one-trick pony,” says Warburton. “There are roles that I’ve said no to before, because they were too similar to the Puddy. I obviously have a type, but I try to add a little wrinkle here and there, to diversify the character.”
His latest endeavor to expand upon his comfort zone is standup comedy, an oeuvre he hasn’t explored since his early 20s; he’s 55 now.
For his shows at Cobb’s, he’ll start each performance with a 15-minute riff on his “crazy life,” before launching into the main event, a dramatic reading of “Letters from a Nut,” a collection of deranged missives fired off to various corporate entities. The prank “letters,” penned by comedian Barry Marder posing as a hapless citizen named Ted L. Nancy, somehow manage to incur lengthy correspondences from a baffled corporate America, to hilarious results.
Warburton will read the letters in an exchange with fellow comedian Mike Wilson, a master of impressions who specializes in everything from Mark Wahlberg to Donald Trump. Warburton, with his trademark patriarchal tone, will play the straight guy, although he says he’ll imbue his own comedic inflections to the skit — a continuation of the funny nuances that has helped sustain his career.
“Mike is going to steal the show — and I don’t care,” says Warburton. “The important thing is that the show works.”
It’s a fitting motto for Warburton, who has been making shows work for decades, with his own personal touch to familiar characters.
IF YOU GO
Where: Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Tickets: $40 to $65