Confession time — when he was a teenager in East Northport, Jason O’Connell spent too much time in the bathroom, staring in the mirror and talking like Michael Keaton. Like Keaton playing Batman, that is. Or stretching his face into the eerie grin of Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Then he’d talk about his day — his classes at Commack North High School, the girls he liked. You know . . . the usual.
This was, in part, because he liked doing impressions. But more because he was obsessed with Batman. Still is — the character, TV show and all those films, from Tim Burton’s 1989 epic starring Keaton and Nicholson through the moodier versions, like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”
O’Connell reveals all this in “The Dork Knight” (yes, “dork”), a one-man-show he wrote and stars in, an homage to the many versions of Batman — the good, the bad, the nipple-baring — now playing Off-Broadway at the Abingdon Theatre Company’s Dorothy Strelsin Theatre through Jan. 29.
“Am I pathetic for loving Batman?” O’Connell asks. “I had to figure it out — why those movies meant so much to me.” He laughs. “I had to embrace the geekiness of that.”
O’Connell got his start doing stand-up and impressions at Huntington’s East Side Comedy Club, the (now closed) venue that helped launch the careers of Eddie Murphy, Rosie O’Donnell and Judd Apatow. He went on to Hofstra University, discovered Shakespeare and has been working as an actor ever since, performing in a slew of classical productions and last year’s Off-Broadway immersive smash “Sense & Sensibility.”
But Batman was always on the brain, so he decided to write about it. The result — a funny, at times heart-wrenching show that reveals as many sides of O’Connell as it does the Caped Crusader.
“I realized there were all these connections between the films and my life,” he says, noting how Batman was orphaned, and relied on the guidance of trusty butler Alfred. O’Connell’s father left the family early, leaving his young son to develop a rich, nurturing relationship with his grandfather.
Revealing this onstage has been tough.
“When you’re a man, there are role models in your life,” says O’Connell. “Some come from fiction, some from real life. Some let you down, some rise to the challenge. I realized there was value in discussing that — but it wasn’t easy.”