Archive for December, 2010

One of my favorite parts of compiling my “Best Of” list was spending this last week re-listening to some of my favorite releases (according to my iTunes, I spent 21.4 hours listening to some of the best of the best). To say 2010 was an excellent year is putting it lightly. I had my choices narrowed down to 24 albums (you can see that list here) and narrowing that list down to 10 was not easy. As much as I listened and re-listened, I just couldn’t bring myself to not include a few names so I’m taking the easy way out and also including 5 Honorable Mentions.

If your only knowledge of stand-up comedy is Robin Williams and The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, you’re really missing out. Not that they aren’t funny (OK, the Blue Collar guys aren’t, but I’m still a fan of Robin…even though his absence from my list this year would seem to prove otherwise) but there’s definitely more out there than most people may be aware of. Hopefully this will help point you in the direction of some very deserving comics who are out there working the clubs, popping up on TV (both in front of and behind the camera) and bringing some serious funny. Follow the links, explore, and support them by buying an album or DVD (or both). You deserve it. And they do, too.

TOP 10 COMEDY ALBUMS OF 2010

10. Janeane Garofalo, If You Will
I’ll be honest: I went into this one with lowered expectations. I assumed this was going to be one long, angry political rant and after listening to the first few minutes I felt bad for pigeonholing Garofalo. I found myself really enjoying If You Will as she takes on Homeland Security, babies, and even her own public persona. Garofalo comes across as more relatable than ever and I’m hoping she keeps at least one foot firmly planted in her stand-up roots for a while.

9. David CrossBigger And Blackerer
No one can point out our weird idiosyncrasies like David Cross. And no one can analyze those idiosyncrasies and dissect them, revealing the additional layers of idiosyncrasies hidden inside like David Cross. His breakdown of an actual British postcard/advertisement reaching out to date rape victims is nothing short of observational humor brilliance magnified to such a degree, if you deprive yourself of hearing it, you may regret it…or worse.

8. Joe DeRosaThe Depression Auction
Joe DeRosa is sick of it, and none of us are safe. He is more than willing to point out things in life that are so ridiculous, they need to be publicly called out and ridiculed. We all have guilty pleasures and DeRosa is a master at making us feel guilty for taking pleasure in them while laughing at ourselves the entire time. DeRosa isn’t perfect, either, and he doesn’t hesitate to take himself to task. As I listened to the album, I could almost picture him in front of a mirror yelling at himself, pointing a finger and wagging it in his reflection’s face. We’ve all shouted at ourselves for doing something we knew we shouldn’t have, but I’m willing to bet we’ve never been as funny as DeRosa while doing it.

7. Kevin HartSeriously Funny
Kevin Hart reminds me of Chris Tucker if Chris Tucker was funny and/or entertaining. His rapid-fire delivery and carefully chosen an-un-ci-a-tion of words add to each punch. He doesn’t approach various topics as much as they approach him, and his reaction – sometimes he’s confused, sometimes he’s angry, sometimes he doesn’t know how to react – resonates with the inner child in all of us. If you it’s been a while since your stomach hurt from laughing too hard, his story of the time he was in grade school and swore at a teacher will remedy that. This album couldn’t be more aptly-titled. This guy is seriously, seriously funny.

6. Lachlan PattersonJokes To Make Love To
If Christopher Walken ever decided to go into stand-up comedy and was amazing at it, people would accuse him of stealing from Lachlan Patterson. Patterson’s pacing and timing are certainly reminiscent of the famed actor, but there’s so much more going on here. His bold confidence in front of a crowd not only allows him to liken old ladies’ makeup application skills to getting into a paintball fight, but it then gives him the OK to ask why he’s not receiving a standing ovation for saying it. Patterson doesn’t apologize for anything, and he doesn’t have to. The “plate of food” button on a microwave does negate the other buttons. We should encourage Olympic swimmers to smoke pot. And saying you rescued a cat really isn’t the right way to put it. No doubt about it: Standing O.

5. Steve ByrneThe Byrne Identity
Whenever you make a Top 10 list, it’s bound to spark some conversation and controversy. “Hey, you didn’t include _____.” Well, buckle up kids because I’m about to take it a step further by stating The Byrne Identity contains the single best track of any comedy album this year. I’m talking about Track 5, “Stereotypes to Music.” Simply put, Byrne names a style of music and then begins to tell you the type of person who listens to that music. I freely admit my summation doesn’t begin to do it justice but that’s why I’m where I am and Byrne is where he is. Because his stereotypes are dead-on, you’ll find yourself laughing those big, full-on, I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that-but-holy-crap-he’s-right laughs. That’s not to say the rest of the album isn’t as skillfully written and flat-out funny; it is. Byrne tackles the struggle of his identity: Who exactly is he? His Korean/Irish ancestry makes it difficult for him to know exactly where he fits in. Or should fit in. Or even want to fit in. Until he comes to a decision, he’ll just have to accept that he’s going to be identified as one of this year’s best.

4. Brian ReganAll By Myself
I started seeing people post Best-of-2010 lists on a variety of subjects as early as November. I chose to wait a bit, just in case something came out in December that deserved to be on the list. It’s albums like All By Myself that made me glad I waited. This one just came out and once again Regan knocks it out of the park. No one is funnier when they’re flummoxed and this time around Regan is undone by hearing tests, watching horse racing, and wrestling with his kids. There’s a reason Regan has made a name for himself and has become so popular: He’s one of the most consistently funny comedians working now, and this album does not disappoint.

3. Bill BurrLet It Go
Speaking of consistent, Bill Burr has fast become one of my favorite comedians. He’s flustered, he’s frustrated, and he’s not holding back. Burr tackles topics we’ve all thought about but never had the guts to say out loud. How many times have you heard stay-at-home moms commended for having “the most difficult job on the planet?” Well, Burr has an issue with that and makes a strong case for the other side. Sure, obesity is a problem in this country, but no one tackles the “horde of fat people wandering out of The Cheesecake Factory” with such side-splitting results. And I think it’s fair to say we’re all sick of the SPCA commercials set to that weepy Sarah McLaughlin song, but no one has been able to crystallize my hatred for this ad campaign quite like Burr. Let It Go is another solid project from a strong comic and never before has someone’s unbridled anger brought me so much joy and laughter.

2. Aziz AnsariIntimate Moments For A Sensual Evening

Before Intimate Moments, I was only familiar with Aziz Ansari’s stand-up work from his appearance on such projects like the Invite Them Up compilation. He only had one track on that album and as good as it was, it did not prepare me for how amazing his solo CD was going to be. Every track on this album is top-notch laugh-out-loud comedy. Ansari’s slight Carolina drawl mixed with his hip-hop sensibilities makes for a unique voice that left me in tears as he talks about his battle with his little cousin on Facebook. As he relays an evening out (and in) with Kanye West, you realize the story is just outrageous enough to be believable. The album comes to a hilarious climax as he re-caps an entire R. Kelly concert in under six minutes. If Parks and Recreation is your only knowledge of Ansari and his work, I cannot express to you how much you are missing out. Trust me.

1. Hannibal BuressMy Name is Hannibal
When I first heard this album back in August, I turned to my wife and said, “I just listened to the funniest album of the year.” Four months later I still stand by that statement. Hannibal Buress’s cool, laid-back Is-he-high?-No-He’s-Just-Cooler-Than-You approach left me laughing from start to finish. There’s not a weak link on this album. Whether he is arguing with computer girls in video games, adding an apostrophe to his first name to make it better, or explaining how one would judge a pigeon-kicking contest, each track is funnier than the previous one, leading to a hilarious finale with one of the best callback references in recent comedy history. The hardest thing about making this year’s Top 10 list was deciding which albums would make the cut. The easiest thing about making this year’s Top 10 list was placing My Name Is Hannibal at #1. If someone asks me what’s new in comedy, what’s good in comedy, who should they be listening to, I can answer their query with one name: His name is Hannibal.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

There wasn’t room for these on the list, but I still felt it was important to give them a mention.

  • Lewis BlackStark Raving Black Lewis Black is back and he’s just as angry as ever. If you’re already a fan, then you won’t be disappointed.
  • Robert Buscemi, Palpable If you like your comedy a little more than off-center, then Buscemi’s breakthrough Palpable will not disappoint.
  • Keith Alberstadt, It’s Pronounced ‘Jenkins’ Alberstadt’s refreshing outlook on life will leave you seeing things from a new – and funnier – perspective.
  • Anthony Jeselnik, Shakespeare At one point in the CD Jeselnik mentions he spent time in New Orleans. Someone in the audience whoops and Jeselnik immediately tells him to shut up. And it’s hilarious.
  • Brian ScolaroDisaster
    Pay no attention to the title of this album. It’s misleading. Lindsay Lohan is a disaster. Kate Gosselin is a disaster. This project from Scolaro is a rousing comedic success.

Which brings us to the part of the blog where you leave your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Who did you like in 2010? As always, your feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading!

Brian Regan is back with a brand-new project, All By Myself, and it’s everything I hoped it would be: Brian Regan at his Brian Regan-ist. He’s just as confused and confounded as ever and his desperate attempt at comprehending life’s little puzzles brings about a hilarious frustration.

I’ve always liked Brian Regan because he reminds me how much of a doofus I am. Not because his approach is “I can’t believe you do this” but “I can’t believe I do this.” I don’t know if it’s necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but I’ve been there, and I can relate. He’s not too proud to admit he’s an adult and still doesn’t grasp concepts like understanding the food pyramid, how to read a text a message, and broken down cars stranded in the middle of the highway.

Watching (or hearing) Regan try to wrap his brain around everyday conundrums grows to hilarious proportions as he spirals into a frenzied outburst we all wish we could mimic in our own lives.

Regan is often a highly-physical comedian, accentuating a joke or premise with what has become his trademark head-bobbing strut. That isn’t lost on an audio CD, as his vocal cadence and inflection punctuate his observations masterfully and get his point across.

Regan’s kids are the focal point of a few tracks, but his material never approaches the cheesy “those darn kids” zone. Instead it’s an interesting battle of wits between children and what is basically a child trapped in an adult’s body.

When he brings up such already-been-there topics like Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and the Balloon Boy, he tempts the comedy fates. Haven’t we already heard every possible angle on these stories from countless comedians and late-night hosts? You’d think that would be the case, but you haven’t heard them like this. When I think of the Balloon Boy, I think of his scheming parents who cooked up the whole cockamamie plan. I never really thought of how Balloon Boy threw up on TV every time he had to lie and how that would affect him as an adult.

Regan is sometimes overshadowed by his past work: “You too,” “Take luck,” and pluralizing the word “ox.” With All By Myself he continues to push forward with consistently hilarious work that will no doubt be added to bits that are shouted out by audience members in the future (like when an audience member requests his “Manslaughter” bit, which Regan mis-hears as “Vampires”). All I can do is wish him godspeed. And yes, I can imagine him going that fast.

Robert Buscemi has such an original voice, it took me a track or two to find his groove and settle into it. That’s not a bad thing, though. It’s a good kind of different. The first time I listened to his new CD Palpable, it reminded me of the first time I listened to Steven Wright’s I Have A Pony. It was, in a word, refreshing. In a year already teeming with solid releases from the comedy genre, Palpable manages to stand out mostly due to Buscemi’s original approach.

Buscemi is a master at painting a mental picture. Whether he’s talking about his recumbent bike – and the outfit and accessories that go along with it – or reciting the physical attributes of his past loves, Buscemi’s details are so complete there’s no doubt he has everyone on exactly the same page. He is a skilled linguist and, to put it bluntly, random to the extreme. I have no idea how Buscemi came up with the idea of posting a personal ad in American Historical Re-Enactment Monthly magazine…but after he recites his submission, I’m glad he did.

You’d think it couldn’t get any more random than a Leper Pit For Charity but we are then seamlessly taken to Combing Day, a festive celebration of grooming Buscemi’s back hair.

You read that right.

Not only was I laughing at the image of back hair woven with beads clacking against each other, I was also extremely impressed with the fact that Buscemi had managed to seamlessly transition from lepers to back hair combing.

From there, the random ideas only get better and better. And by “better and better” I mean more and more random. And by “more and more random,” I mean hilariouser and hilariouser.

  • Germans pronouncing the phrase “puppet theater.”
  • An examination of Grateful Dead parking lot economics.
  • Retroactive bastardization.
  • Donating your body to Home Ec class because you hated science
  • Rabid weasels scream-reading at hearing-impaired infants
  • Using candy to break up with your boyfriend Russell

It’s like a bucket list of comedy topics I never knew was out there. Fortunately, Robert Buscemi did.

***
Palpable is available from Rooftop Comedy Productions

Well, it’s getting close to that time of year when I roll out my picks for the ten best comedy albums of the year. In preparation, I’ve made myself a list of the albums I want to go back and re-listen to before I make my final decision. Here’s a shot of that list in the order I added them to my iTunes library (click on the image for a larger view):

And yes, I realize Juston McKinney’s album isn’t called A Middle Close Hole and Joe DeRosa’s last name is spelled incorrectly. That’s just what tends to happen when I get near the end of the page.

As I prepare to entomb myself in my carefully-constructed isolation chamber (otherwise known as plugging in my headphones) I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the year’s best. Don’t worry, they won’t sway my picks. I’ll be posting one more review next week before I reveal the big list, so stay tuned. Of course, if there are any that aren’t on the list you feel I should give a listen to, leave that in the comments as well.

In the meantime, why not visit your music-purchasing purveyor of choice and pick up a few. Your sense of humor will thank you.

Allow me to start off this post by telling you I’m a fan of Dane Cook. Always have been. A few years ago, when Dane started gaining some crazy notoriety the inevitable happened: backlash. Huge backlash. Angry, angry backlash. So if you’re one of those people who hate Cook’s comedy with a passion equal only to that of the earth’s magma core, well…you’re not gonna agree with this review.

I Did My Best – Greatest Hits truly is a collection of some of Cook’s greatest bits. The project spans all of his previous albums and at times it’s a bit jarring to hear the difference in sound from an intimate club setting to his show at Madison Square Gardens. Of course, the classics are here: “Not So Kool-Aid” and “Heist/Monkey” still crack me up just as much as the first time I heard them.

This collection really shows off Dane’s love of the English language, his mastery of inflection, and his manic energy that only comes when you’re doing something you truly love to do. Dane isn’t just a comedian, he’s a storyteller extraordinaire. Like David Cross or Bill  Cosby, the humor isn’t found in the one-two setup/punch combination but in the process of pointing out every nuance of every detail along the way.

Sure, there are some tracks I had hoped would be included (I’m still a fan of his Tarantino-esque story-out-of-sequence magic he pulled in “The Wall,” his Walgreen’s escapade he talks about on Retaliation) but considering this project weighs in with an impressive 38 tracks – five of which are previously unreleased bits – I can’t really complain.

If you’re a fan of Cook’s, then this is a nice way to re-visit some of your favorites. If you’re not familiar with his work as a stand-up, this is a great place to start. And if you think Dane Cook is the worst thing to happen to the world of comedy, I probably haven’t changed your mind, and now you hate me too.

I did my best.

***
I Did My Best – Greatest Hits is available from Comedy Central Records