There’s something about actor Jeff Daniels that makes it a little hard to remember exactly who he is. That’s mostly due to his skill as a consummate character actor: he’s a new, different person in every film he makes. His doughy, everyman’s face is perfect for whatever character he’s channelling, and at the same time completely forgettable. It’s almost impossible not to have a seen a movie the guy’s had a major role in: Terms of Endearment, Arachnaphobia, Gettysburg, Speed, Dumb and Dumber, 2 Days in the Valley, Pleasantville, The Hours, Good Night and Good Luck, and last year’s excellent The Squid and the Whale, among them.
Who hasn’t seen at least one of those?
There were a few empty seats at Charleston Music Hall for the actor’s one-off music gig there Saturday evening at 8 pm, but you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the crowd, particulary to the woman who was sitting behind me, who, judging by the volume of her screaming, must have been determined to sleep with the man before then end of the night.
Daniels has family who live in Charleston, which apparently is how organizer Sheri Grace Wenger was able to talk him into a performance of his folksy singer/songwriter act. In fact, Daniels is as unassuming a celebrity as he is versatile. The pre-show music was some godawful sort of bowel-loosening smooth jazz that he got rid of by walking onto the darkened stage and saying, “Let’s turn off that damn jazz, what do you say?” He’s no great shakes either as a guitarist or as a lyricist, but he had some clever songs about celebrity (“If William Shatner can, I can too”), and a surprisingly good voice. He won the room over in no time with a self-deprecating wit and a well-honed I’ll-never-get-an-Oscar-because-of-Dumb and Dumber schtick. (Hey, William Shatner never won an Oscar either.)