Posts Tagged ‘michael ian black’

Ryan Stout is one of those comedians that dabbles in a variety of approaches to the art (one-liners, shock comedy, amped-up bravado) and his new album Touché is proof positive that he excels in each one. His on-stage persona is one of confident elevation. He has an air about him that is reminiscent of Michael Ian Black wherein both comics seem to be coming from a station of higher status than the audience, gracing us with their presence. This works for both comics but in my opinion Stout does it better. Where Black seems to be rooted in arrogance first with humor added as a secondary ingredient, Stout comes at us working with jokes as his primary foundation.

Stout refers to the audience as “Crowd.” Not the crowd, but simply Crowd, and it’s a great ploy. Incorporating them into his act, even going so far as to making them a character in the proceedings, draws everyone in almost to the point where we feel like a part of the action, at times even working as Stout’s partner. Not only does it give him someone to work with — and off of — but it also conveniently gives him someone to blame when things go awry. It’s not just effective…it’s also really, really funny.

Stout loves to jolt the audience into laughter by saying things that are clearly politically incorrect but he knows he can come out looking like the good guy if he chastises us for laughing at the horrible things he says. Often times he’ll scold us with a “Crowd! Crowd!” as if he’s trying to settle an unruly mob of children and you can almost see him shaking his head like a disappointed parent. His reprimanding “Crowd!” brings more laughter each time.

His one-liners are clever and Stout has a great ability to deliver them resulting in major hang-time laughter. He’ll say the joke…wait for it…and then you feel the audience (Crowd) finally figure it out. There’s even a bit of residual hang-time laughter as a smaller wave follows closely behind the original as Crowd seems to be chuckling at themselves because of how long it took them to get to the funny. The hang-time laughter really is a cool thing to witness and Stout is able to replicate the phenomenon time and time again. Seeing his ability to pull off the stunt repeatedly and the way he makes it look so effortless is a real testament to his skill.

It’s not just his one-liners that left me impressed — and laughing. Stout’s longer bits are smart, original, and very cleverly-constructed. If there’s any doubt about his talent as a laughter-craftsman, he will be the first in line to verify the claim. After a certain bit has (seemingly) come to an end, Stout brags, “That’s probably the cleanest anal sex joke you’ll hear in your lives.” He continues, “That was a joke about language and urban planning.” And you know what? He’s absolutely correct on both counts. And the fact that he draws attention to it actually makes it funnier than it already was (and trust me, it was already pretty funny).

Not only is he a talented comedian, Stout is also an upstanding citizen, as is displayed when he champions often-overlooked Special Olympics athletes, promotes an original diet and exercise regimen, and displays how attuned he is to the race issue (he reveals another word he refuses to say). Sure, each of the aforementioned topics might take a rabbit punch to the back of the head along the way, but rest assured Stout will be there with a “Crowd, please! Crooooowd!” to get us back in line.

This project is one that is definitely worth checking out, even if it means we are to blame for finding things funny that we probably shouldn’t. That in itself is another credit to his genius. He says things that are just plain wrong and we’re the ones at fault for laughing. Well played, Stout.

Touché indeed.


Touché is available from Comedy Central Records

Michael Ian Black. Very Famous.

The album title says a lot.

The persona Black has chosen for his latest stand-up album is one of smug, arrogant, confidence. He stands tall and proud as if surveying his kingdom and looks down upon the rest of us with a knowing smirk. After all, we can only dream to be the person he is, but to dream that dream is an act of futility. He is, after all, very famous.

But, alas and alack, things don’t always go the way Black has planned, and therein lies the humor and genius of his comedy. He has found a pedestal to perch upon that is so high and so precariously constructed, much to our delight when he inevitably falls, he doesn’t go down gracefully.

Simply put, Black has found away to do slapstick with words.

Black ensures we delight in his folly whether he is unsuccessfully trying to be funny while ordering a make-your-own pizza, unsuccessfully encouraging his children to be creative with their choice of Halloween costumes, or (very) unsuccessfully trying to maintain his reputation of not being a pussy while skydiving. It all builds up to an embarrassingly candid recount of a trip he took to the doctor’s office after making an alarming discovery in the bathroom.

There is more here, however, than just tales of misfortune from a man who may have been asking for it. He’s a great storyteller who doesn’t skimp on details; details that round out his stories and flesh them out into a complete picture. He has an amazing way of keeping himself entertained on an airplane and when he demonstrates the perfectly-named Banana Noises, the theater falls completely silent as the audience watches in rapt attention.

Black revels in his ability to control what the audience feels. He can make them laugh, pause, cringe, or moan upon command and he flexes his ventriloquist muscles with the maniacal glee of a mad doctor. He knows precisely what buttons to push, and when the audience gasps in response to his admittedly-feminine drink of choice or his introduction of Diet Dr. Pepper into the bedroom or his revenge on an ill-mannered kitten in a no-kill shelter, Black feigns surprise at their shocked reaction.

There’s a lot going on here, but you’d be remiss to overlook Black’s writing and how he constructs his humor. He has perfected the punchline bait-and-switch. He’s even bold enough at times to let you know when the punch is coming and still he manages to pull the rug out from underneath your feet when it’s least expected. Through inflection and timing he gives you a quick peek at the cards he is holding, almost daring you to get to the punchline before he does. Trust me, it won’t happen.

He intentionally leads you down a well-lit street to give you a feeling of security and familiarity and then pelts you with paint-filled balloons from the rooftops overhead when you least expect it. If he were to make you a salad, your choices for dressing would be French, Italian, and an ottoman.

Despite all of the snarky self-assuredness, Black never comes across as unlikable, another testament to his writing and stage presence. We all know he’s in on the joke and as a result, we enjoy spending time with him. When our time with him comes to an end, it’s all too soon.

As if you weren’t already impressed with how skilled he is as a writer and performer, he wraps up the show with the ultimate callback. When done properly, you never see a callback coming and Black is a master of camouflage. He’s Arnold covered in mud waiting to pounce on the Predator.

“Very famous?” Black cites a few examples of why that may or may not be true.

But “very funny?” This album speaks for itself, and the answer is a resounding “yes.”


Very Famous is available from Comedy Central Records