Archive for November, 2010

Jon Lajoie is back with a new collection of music that is sure to illicit more than a few laughs. Allow me to clarify: It’s a new collection, but not a collection of new songs, as most of the tracks have been available on Lajoie’s YouTube channel for some time now.

iTunes seems to be flooded with musical comedians but most of them are  hardly more than smirk-inducing on the first listen.  This is not the case with Lajoie. For starters, the production value is much better than most of the overnight silly songs that crop up. True, LaJoie isn’t going to be winning any awards for his vocal prowess, but he’s too busy cleverly skewering rap, pop music, and rock ballads to let that stop him.

Lajoie kicks off I Kill People with the title track, an intentionally-stunted gangster rap complete with a 1983 Casio keyboard beat. At first it seems to be just another rapper bragging about how great he is until you realize…well…maybe he’s not the greatest.

“My lyrics are like the movie The Shawshank Redemption…..they’re really good.”

He’s like the Ben Stiller of comedic rap. He excels at portraying the over-confident guy who can’t really live up to his own self-created hype.

There are your few standard penis, masturbation, and ill-fated love songs that just lay limp – pun intended –  (“Listening To My Penis,” “Alone in the Universe,” “In Different Ways”) but Lajoie really soars when he gets a chance to show off his various characters. And when his characters bump into each other on the same track, there are hilarious results. “WTF Collective” (and its sequel a few tracks later) introduces us to rappers like MC Insecure, MC Amnesia, The Chorus Guy, MC Doesn’t Know What Irony Is, MC Gets Sidetracked Easily, and my two personal favorites: MC Lethal Weapon 1 2 & 3 and MC Lethal Weapon 4.

Lajoie is at his best when he goes at a subject full-force. “Michael Jackson is Dead” is an angry rap aimed at those who criticized MJ and suddenly became fans after his death. The genius of this song lies in the fact that the more the rapper defends The Gloved One, the more Michael comes out looking not-so-good.

“Mel Gibson’s Love Song” is one of those songs that I probably shouldn’t have laughed at as much as I did (“I love you…that’s why I punched you in the face”) and “Radio Friendly Song” is a nice companion to a song from his previous album, “Pop Song.” I freely admit that it’s probably my brief experience in the music business machine that makes me love these songs that call out the music industry.

All in all, “I Kill People” is a solid comedy album. Sure, not every track is a home run, but neither is every cut on Eminem’s new project. But at least Lajoie is funny on purpose.

***
I Kill People is available from Normal Guy Productions

Musical comedian Bo Burnham‘s latest project, Words Words Words starts off with two studio tracks and then goes into a live set where Burnham is proud to offer what is most likely the smartest bunch of dirty jokes you’ll ever hear, all set to a catchy beat. Sure, you need a thesaurus, a serious love of homonyms and puns, and the cliff notes to the complete works of Shakespeare to catch all of the jokes that are flying by but that’s part of the fun. Burnham brings his white boy rap at full speed and that half-second between the point where you hear a line and when your brain actually registers what you just heard is part of the fun. Upon listening a second, third, and even fourth time, you’re pretty much guaranteed to pick up new jokes where innocent statements once appeared to be.

“I’m a feminine Eminem, a slim shady lady but nice ‘cuz I texted Haiti,
Ninety lady cops in the road and I’m arrested for doin’ 80.”

I still haven’t decided which I prefer, the studio or live tracks. One on hand I enjoy hearing the crowd respond to Burnham as he pounds away on the piano yet at the same time I like the full studio sound where the songs are complete with beats, orchestration, and sound effects.

To break down each song indiviually would almost be pointless since Burnham’s songs are pretty much all different approaches to the whole “I’m an amazing rapper and here are some examples of why I’m the best” routine. But when you’re as clever a wordsmith as Burnham is, that’s totally allowed.

Musically, I’m looking forward to seeing Burnham grow and stretch a bit. The live tracks reveal how similar most of his songs are. It’s as if he’s playing the same chords and what really differentiates them from one another are the words he’s saying. Often times when he gets to a big joke in a song it seems he’s so excited to hit the punchline that his fingers betray him and his enthusiasm results in some ear-splitting wrong notes.

We’ve all experiemented with writing our own Haikus, but in the age of Twitter where we’re restrained to expressing our thoughts with a limited amount of characters, Burnham seems born to say a lot in only seventeen syllables.

“Even if he is
Your friend never ever call
An Asian person”

You may cringe, you may check to see who’s in the room next to you, you may not want to, but Burnham will make you laugh. To paraphrase a line from the title track, “Words Words Words” is like having sex with a fat lady in an elevator. It’s wrong on so many levels.

***
Words Words Words is available from Comedy Central Records

Keith Alberstadt is a funny guy.

And on his new CD It’s Pronounced ‘Jenkins’, Alberstadt has a cool confidence in his own humor that ensures the listener they are in safe hands. It’s not a cocky confidence and it doesn’t come across as condescending. It’s simply a confidence that says, “Hey, I know these stories are funny. Check ’em out.”

It doesn’t take long before Alberstadt addresses his less-then-usual name. But instead of dwelling on the many pronunciations of his Germanic surname, he instead points out the absurdity in the fact that he’s also had problems with his first name, too. Hence the appearance of “KIF” on his coffee order at Starbucks.

Some of Alberstadt’s premises initially play as somewhat standard. Ok, I know where he’s going I thought to myself a few times, but then Alberstadt surprises you. It’s not that he takes a hard left and turns the bit on its ear into something preposterous…but he instead goes down a side street that twists and winds and invites you to look at something you’ve seen before from a different perspective. We’ve all heard comics talk about parents who get flustered and call their kids by the wrong name, but Alberstadt adds his fresh point of view that ends up including the dog. And someone named Pablo.

Whether it’s giving a girlfriend a hard time for mis-pronouncing the word “love” or saying the name Clifton sarcastically, Alberstadt has a real gift for sound, inflection, and gibberish punctuation at the end of sentences. Alberstadt is careful not to overuse this skill, so it never becomes tiresome. He’s patient and relaxed and isn’t rushing himself to get to the punch. It’s his mastery of the pause (especially as he prepares to tell you what a dog is really thinking) that lets you know he’s in control. He’s got this.

There’s a nice ebb and flow to Alberstadt’s material. It’s not full-throttle gut-busting laughs all the way through, but it’s not supposed to be. He gives you a breather with a story that elicits a smirk, a goofy observation that makes you smile and shake your head, and then smoothly slips into the story of why he put his shoes in the refrigerator four times.

“John Adams” is a track that asks the question “If texting was around when John Adams was alive, would it change the way he wrote?” It eerily reminded me of Greg Giraldo’s bit about Civil War letters (even the voice Alberstadt uses to read the texts sounds a lot like Giraldo’s Civil War-reading voice) but that short premise leads into two great tracks on texting and phone etiquette.

“It’s a law now in almost every state: can’t text while you’re driving. Seventy-five percent of Americans agree with those laws. Twenty-five percent said “WTF’, then hit a guard rail.”

The CD ends with four tracks recorded while Alberstadt was overseas performing for the troops. No matter where he was – Qatar, Iraq, or the USS Harry S Truman –  the troops are eating it up. It’s cool to hear how various parts of the same bit hit each audience differently.

‘It’s Pronounced ‘Jenkins’ is a solid project from a comedian who’s got it all under control. Just sit back and let someone else drive for a bit. And when it’s over, check the fridge for your shoes.

***
It’s Pronounced ‘Jenkins’ is available from Rooftop Comedy Productions

The name of the new comedy album from James Fritz is “Deflated.” I’d never heard of Fritz or this project, but I thought I’d give it a shot. “Deflated” is a very apt title, mostly because that’s exactly how I felt after listening to these 15 tracks. And not in a good way.

The album begins with Fritz’s manic screaming and doesn’t stop. I think he’s meant to come across as a Lewis Black sort of angry, but the difference is Lewis Black is funny when he’s angry. Fritz, with his lispy sssssscreamsssss sounds more like a contestant on [insert any reality show on the Bravo channel here] throwing a hissy fit.

“Deflated” was recorded live in Chicago in September. Despite the fact that it’s literally just a couple of months old, the album features bits on topics as dated as Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, Ted Kennedy’s death, and listening for hidden backward messages in — that’s right — “Another One Bites the Dust.” I’m not saying you can’t talk about things in the past or experiences you’ve had in childhood…but Fritz talks about them as if they’re trending topics and it just comes out awkward.

By the third track, Fritz has slipped out of his manic yelling persona and morphed into a whiny guy. I don’t think this was intentional, as the yelling begins again a few tracks later when he tries to prove what a wild and crazy guy he is by telling a story about the time he got thrown out of Chuck E Cheese. It doesn’t sound like they went back in and padded the laughter but there are a couple of moments where they probably should have. You can almost feel how exhausted the audience is and more than once they have all but given up on even offering up polite chuckles. They’re just not interested anymore. Fortunately, Fritz steps in to laugh at his own jokes. I guess if no one else is going to, why not, right?

The biggest laughter on the album comes on Track 13, where he tells a somewhat confusing story about a bag of pasta. I’m wondering if there wasn’t a physical movement that didn’t translate audibly, because I wasn’t sure why the audience erupted into a huge roar of guffaws. I sat here, confused, and I believe my exact words were, “Really?”

Unfortunately, Fritz miscalculates his own timing and drones on for two more tracks, never again coming anywhere close to that level of reaction from the audience. His obligatory “dirty” joke that ends the album falls flat, and when he leaves the stage, I could picture the crowd looking at each other and saying, “That was it?

It’s always  a gamble buying an album when you’re not familiar with the comedian or their material. Sometimes you hit paydirt..and sometimes you just end up Deflated.

***
Deflated is available from The Red Bard Comedy Record Label

Check out the review for this album at
the new Comedy Reviews website