Creed Bratton ‘admits’ to being fictional Scranton Strangler at Cornerstone; also sings some songs

Isabella Schreiber/Staff
Isabella Schreiber / Staff

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The first rule of watching a Creed Bratton show is that you cannot go in expecting a comedy routine or a concert. This rule was never spoken, but largely inferred from Bratton’s first five minutes on stage during his sold-out show at Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music. He came in with one of his character’s many quotable lines by asking if anyone was making soup, and then went on to tell a few jokes before launching into the story behind “Bubble and Squeak,” a song about the British breakfast dish made from leftovers.

It’s an odd inspiration for a song, but you can expect nothing less from the man who spent nine years playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself on NBC’s hit TV show “The Office,” a critically acclaimed workplace sitcom about the employees of a small paper company. Bratton on the TV show was the resident eccentric old man who had a habit of saying non sequiturs to his co-workers and to the camera operators.

Most, if not all, of the audience members were there as fans of the TV show, which Bratton himself recognized. In the middle of “Bubble and Squeak,” he slipped Michael Scott’s infamous catchphrase “that’s what she said” into the song. Afterward, he went on about castmate Angela Kinsey’s penchant for speaking Indonesian, complete with a funny, but slightly offensive, impersonation of the Indonesian language.

The show only got weirder from there, with a song about poisonous snakes, the Illuminati and the “down-low,” a term for a subculture of typically straight-identifying Black men who have sex with men. It didn’t quite have the same tone as an Ariana Grande pop single, but the crowd still joined in to sing along with the chorus lyrics, “be it hetero or homo or Perry Como, do the rubber tree.” The song is just as bizarre as Bratton’s character on “The Office,” but it added to the eccentric charm that Bratton has cultivated over the years. The concert’s quirkiness was further established through each arbitrary anecdote that he told before songs — from jokes about elder abuse to therapy miniature horses on planes.

With songs ranging from soft rock to mellow jazz, Bratton’s musical dexterity and soothing voice reminded the audience that his first claim to fame was being a member of the Grass Roots, a popular American rock band during the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s almost a shame that most of his current renown comes from “The Office” rather than his decades in the music industry.

But Bratton understands where his current fan base comes from and didn’t hesitate to indulge the fans in some behind-the-scenes moments from “The Office.” In between songs, he spent a few minutes asking the audience to yell out some of his most iconic lines for him to re-enact. He knew how to please the crowd and you could feel the audience’s energy rise when he performed a song about all of his old castmates to the melody of “The Office” theme song about halfway through his set. Full of inside jokes, the song picked up the lull in the crowd. Almost everyone forgot they’d been standing for more than two hours and went crazy when Bratton subtly implied that he is the Scranton Strangler, a reference to one of the ongoing gags in the TV show.

When Bratton spoke in third person and talked about how he thought he was working at a paper company during the first few years of the TV show, it was unclear whether he was Creed Bratton or playing Creed Bratton. Yet it all worked toward the comically peculiar night that was part concert, part stand-up and part tribute to “The Office.” He ended his set list with “All The Faces,” the song performed by Bratton at the end of the TV show’s finale, leaving the audience in a haze of “The Office” nostalgia. But after popular demand, he came back for a double encore with songs such as “Secret Agent Man,” abruptly ending the bathos and leaving the audience speculating about the entire performance.

Throughout the night, the show evaded definition and could only be seen as a unique event in which the audience got to revel in the myth that is Creed Bratton.

Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].