The songs of the guitar-strumming stand-up comic Stephen Lynch cover just about every sick fantasy imaginable: Wishing a rich grandfather would die. Sticking a gerbil in a certain bodily orifice. Performing an abortion on a pregnant girlfriend. One of his songs, "Kill a Kitten," provoked outrage from animal rights activists.
His style may be a far cry from Rodgers and Hammerstein, but Mr. Lynch's musical prowess has landed him a choice role on Broadway: Robbie Hart in "The Wedding Singer," the part Adam Sandler played in the 1998 film version. The show begins previews on March 30 at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, where it opens on April 27.
Mr. Lynch's comedy has been compared to that of Mr. Sandler, who made his name in part by performing tunes like "The Chanukah Song" on "Saturday Night Live." And he shares Mr. Sandler's penchant for juxtaposing gentle melody with crude subject matter. It wasn't until Mr. Sandler came to the show's pre-Broadway tryout in Seattle that the two met.
Margo Lion, a producer of "The Wedding Singer," said Mr. Lynch has "got this cherubic look, but he has a dangerous side to him."
"A lot of actors feel they have to be liked by the audience all the time," she continued, "and, given his act, he's not afraid to make an audience uncomfortable at certain moments."
Mr. Lynch, 34, says that he did not spend his childhood burning ants with a magnifying glass — his songs spring from conversations and observations as opposed to any subconscious rage.
In fact, he says he has always liked good old-fashioned musicals. He grew up in Saginaw, Mich., where his parents were teachers and where he and his father performed together in community theater productions. The first time he saw a musical he was watching his father play the Padre in "Man of La Mancha," a classic he still enjoys. His own early roles in college and regional productions included Huck Finn in "Big River" and Jesus in "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Mr. Lynch didn't take to his childhood piano lessons. But at Western Michigan University, he lived in a house with a bunch of guys in punk bands and started fiddling around with a guitar.
"We'd go downstairs and get some beer and play songs," he says. "For me the fun in that was just trying to make them laugh."
When he moved to New York, a friend invited him to perform songs at the West Bank Cafe on 42nd Street. His first number that night was a song he still performs, "Lullaby," in which a father tells his son "why your mommy left us" (it involves the father's penchant for pornography, prostitution and homosexual pedophilia).
Mr. Lynch went on to perform in clubs and colleges around the country, make regular appearances on the "Opie & Anthony" radio show and rack up three albums, a live DVD and a Comedy Central special.
"I woke up one day, and that was my new career," he says. "It was something I'd never planned on doing."
Mr. Lynch, who is making his Broadway debut, says he is still getting used to the "exhausting" rehearsal process, which involves "singing the same thing over and over and over again." Still, the choreography is more of a challenge since, as he puts it, "I have never danced willingly in my life."