Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kris Tinkle's "Maybe I Don't Feel Like Smiling"



On his new album, “Maybe I Don’t Feel Like Smiling,” Kris Tinkle has a comedic intensity that is a lot of fun to be around. It’s not an “I’m so angry” intensity, but the sort of a 6-year-old determined to throw a baseball all the way from center field to home plate and continually missing (and getting more and more red-faced with each attempt). I find it funny when little kids get frustrated and worked up and as a result, Tinkle’s similar youthful frenzy is equally enjoyable.

Case in point: Tinkle is still holding a grudge against a childhood classmate’s mom who skimped out on the snacks she provided the class. It upset him at the time and as you can hear in his voice, it still gets under his skin. It cracked me up to hear the visceral anger in his voice aimed at this woman ("That fat bitch!"), an adult still fuming that she teased them with the promise of snacks from Trader Joe’s and instead offered up Crackerz.

Tinkle holds onto that same Rage Lite as he rants about Pandora (simply enter the artist you want to hear and the music service will gladly never play a song by the artist requested), asthma nerds who are convinced they will be the heroes of a zombie apocalypse, and his friends who told him he looks like all the characters from Game of Thrones combined into one face (why couldn’t they just be polite and talk about him behind his back?)

The key to Tinkle being as funny as he is (which, it should be noted, is very) is his gleeful existence in a suspended state of arrested development. He freely admits he would be a better boyfriend if he lived in The Old West and although he was never in the Armed Forces, he found a way to serve in Iraq thanks to the contents of the cleverly labeled “Taxes” folder on his laptop.

One of my favorite bits of the album includes Tinkle’s admission that he’s not a fighter (a fact he verifies with the tale of the time he was out-wrestled by a one-legged guy). A fan of boxing and MMA, he admits he wouldn’t fare well in the ring. On the other hand, he holds fast to the theory that he could seriously - and I mean seriously - throw down for 30 seconds. Of course, his theory is inevitably misunderstood by the girl he was dating at the time which leads to a huge laugh (and great closer)

This is a highly enjoyable album that you’ll want to revisit multiple times. Tinkle is a lot of fun to be around and there are more highlights on this CD than I can give just due in this review - which is definitely not a complaint. Too much of a good thing is always a good thing and Tinkle generously packs each track with some big laughs. When he is about to go full-rage on a guy in the audience making free use of the comedy club’s electrical outlets, Tinkle is intercepted by a moment that surprises even himself - even though he asked for it in the opening track. Circle of life, man. And laughter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tim Slagle’s “The Best of Slagle Vol. 1”


Stand-up comedians are sort of like your email inbox. Some of them (Louis C.K.) are like emails you get from a good friend you’ve stayed in touch with; always nice to hear from them and they always leave a smile on your face. Some (Bill Cosby) you don’t hear from very often but you start to laugh almost as soon as you see who it’s from. Some (Brian Regan) are like your old college buddy you haven’t heard from in a while but when you do….oh man, you almost forgot how nice it was to hang out with him. Some (Doug Stanhope) are like the Evites you get from the guy whom you’re not sure about, things could go seriously south, but at the same time you know they’re gonna go somewhere and you sort of wanna be there to witness it.

And some are like the emails you get from that weird relative who somehow got your email address - you certainly didn’t give it to him - and now he bombards you with conspiratorial IMPORTANT MESSAGES that are plastered with pixelated GIFs of eagles flapping their wings and the American flag jerkily waving in non-existent wind. Unfortunately, Tim Slagle’s “The Best of Slagle Vol. 1” is in this category.

This is an odd collection for a “Best of” compilation mostly because…there aren’t a lot of laughs. I wasn’t familiar with Slagle going into it and the opening track didn’t leave a very strong first impression. His delivery style hearkens back to the 80s (not necessarily in a good way) and until he referenced September 11, I actually thought that’s when this track was recorded. The crowd’s reaction is lackluster at best and didn’t seem the right choice with which to open the album.

Slagle likes politics (not really my strong suit) and he likes to scream (a style I’ve rarely embraced), so when he screams about politics it becomes a bit off-putting. He raves at the audience as if they’re the ones committing the atrocities he’s so worked up about and it didn’t connect with me. I like to listen to comedy to laugh, not to feel like I’m being yelled at for 40 minutes.

It’s not that I have anything against political humor per se. I love “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” As far as comics go, I find Dennis Miller funny and I’m especially fond of Lewis Black (who, coincidentally enough, also tends to be a political screamer). What these guys all have in common, though, is a sense of humor. There are jokes in their material because…well….they’re comedians. Slagle uses his platform not so much to be funny but…to use as a platform.

At one point, Slagle insists that he’s not being hateful as he yells about the fact he’s not allowed to make fun of black people (Seriously? This upsets you that much?). Instead, he’s “exercising his right to free speech.” 

And he is. 

I just wish he was making the speech funny.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shane Mauss's "Mating Season"


If I were to merely state that the new CD from Shane Mauss, “Mating Season,” is a fun look at evolution and how females steer life through existence, that wouldn’t be doing the project justice (as accurate as it may be). Although my description sounds like it might be a yawn-inducing study of science and anthropology, this album is anything but. Mauss has put together a tight set with a lot of big laughs as he, yes, puts humanity (and other life forms) under the microscope, trying to figure out just why we do what we do - and often disputing the claims of others along the way.

The basic theory Mauss adheres to is pretty simple (Evolution is driven by female choice and the role of the male is to wear fancy stuff for them) but as he excavates and digs deeper, he’s able to find a lot of great material hiding in the recesses. Men mistakenly think that having a Man Cave is a display of our status as Head of the Household but when you realize that it’s usually cordoned off to a basement, attic, or detached garage you begin to realize just how disillusioned we are.

As much as you may not agree or want to hear it, Mauss has pretty compelling evidence to support his Women-Are-Driving-This-Car hypothesis. He marvels at their ability to still run errands during pregnancy when, for him, a burrito is all it takes to be sidelined. The movie Braveheart isn’t actually about what you think it’s about (Sorry, Freedooooom lovers) and all it takes is a cute set of short shorts to amp the intensity in a casual pick-up game of basketball.

Although most of Mauss’s set is based on science, he spends the last couple of tracks on the album on the other side of the coin with a visit to The Garden of Eden and the first moments of Adam and Eve. You have to admit he’s onto something when he wonders what it would have been like for Adam to just…suddenly….be.

As much fun as “Mating Season” is, the bits I enjoyed the most were the ones where Mauss shifted the focus from general observations to detailing specific moments of his life. I realize I sound like Keenen Ivory-Wayans on this season of “Last Comic Standing” (His repetitious “We wanna hear more about you” critique of every comic that performed has basically become his version of Randy Jackson’s “You sound pitchy, dawg”), but in this case those were the moments I found the funniest. 

Mauss has a strange game/joke/goof he likes to play on his wife that is basically the exact opposite of Jim Carrey’s butt-talking gag from Ace Ventura and “Showing Off,” the best track on the album in my opinion, takes us step-by-step through an epic flee from the police that ends with the most awkward impulse-use of an apple fritter ever. It’s a great bit and as Mauss recounts each of his so-bad-it-should-be-on-“COPS” attempts to escape the fuzz, the laughs get bigger and bigger. 

Mating Season” has arrived. I highly suggest you equip yourself with protection (grab your T-shirt cannon) and enjoy it while it’s here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dylan Brody's "More Arts Less Martial"


Dylan Brody is back and, if you’re familiar with this site and my past reviews of his work, it should come as no surprise that I’m very excited about his return. This time around is special, as “More Arts Less Martial” comes as a video release. I’d seen clips of Brody on YouTube before but it’s especially nice to be able to kick back for an hour and watch him do his thing.

The self-proclaimed Purveyor of Fine Words and Phrases is exactly the Master Storyteller you would expect one with such a moniker to be. His words paint a beautiful picture and watching the prose flow out of him so easily makes me realize how much of a neanderthal I am when it comes to the spoken word (I can’t finish a sentence without peppering it with four “ums,” two “awesomes,” a “yeah yeah yeah” and the obligatory “I know, right?”). What is even more impressive is that Brody does it all without the net of a cheat sheet.

Because Brody’s speech is so eloquent, when listening to his past projects I always assumed he was reading his own pre-written material from a journal or notebook. Not here. It doesn’t sound memorized or recited but instead has the natural conversational tone I was familiar with. It made me come to grips with the fact that yep, this guy’s just really, really good.

This project is a “greatest hits” of sorts, many of the stories having appeared on past releases. That doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of them, though, because leaping from an audio-only interaction to video is understandably a completely different experience. It’s not unlike all of the Bill Cosby albums and cassettes I listened to as a kid. As much as I enjoyed them, I’ll never forget the first time I saw video footage of the bits I had come to know and love. Likewise, Brody’s tales are brought to new life with facial expressions, casual glances, and yes, the constant presence of his scarf (something I’ve always wanted to pull off, but know I can’t).

Brody cherry picks some of my favorite pieces from his impressive repertoire and, although they’ve never appeared together before in one project, he wildly succeeds. If you were to watch this video without any prior knowledge, you’d never guess these particular vignettes weren’t specifically designed to go together. It helps that Brody is able to weave a couple of themes throughout his show, an old joke about a doctor’s office and helpful words from his professorial father dropped in at just the right places. 

More Arts Less Martial” takes a number of smaller bits that by themselves hit home and sews them together to make one larger, more grand piece of art. Although it’s similar to how a quilt is made, calling this project a quilt seems a little demeaning (with apologies to any quilt-makers who may be reading this). With the addition of “that thing he does” in his Tae Kwon Do class as a closer, this is no quilt. What Brody has created is a beautiful tapestry.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tommy Johnagin's "Stand Up Comedy 3"


The last time I reviewed a Tommy Johnagin project, I struggled. Oh, I didn’t have a problem coming up with things to rave about. Quite the opposite. There were so many good things on Stand Up Comedy 2 I didn’t know what to write about and what to leave on the cutting room floor (as if there are actually words and paragraphs strewn about my apartment that I just couldn’t get to). It was too much of a good thing, but trust me I wasn’t complaining.

With the arrival of his next CD, naturally titled Stand Up Comedy 3,” I am pleased to say I find myself facing the exact same quandary. This album is so good, so funny, I honestly don’t know where to start. I usually try to keep my reviews to around 500 words. My notes alone on this one clock in at 350 so yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff here. 

Johnagin begins with a track where he recounts the time he was on the phone with his mother, trying (unsuccessfully) to walk her through iTunes. As someone who has been in the exact same situation, I couldn’t help but laugh as he vented his frustration, proclaiming he’s not smart enough to be dumb enough to figure out how in the world she managed to open a song in Microsoft Works. This track alone is funnier than many entire comedy albums and if Johnagin had made this six-and-a-half minute track the only one on the project (or, as he brags, the “compact disc”), it would still be worth the price of a full-length CD. 

Fortunately for us there are 11 more that follow and each one is just as funny. Johnagin is one of those comedians whose stories are so incredible you can’t help but wonder exactly how much of them are true and how much have been embellished for the stage. Did his girlfriend really catch him kissing another guy at a Gay Holiday Party? Did he really get into that argument with his girlfriend’s friend? And did he really hire a handyman to hang a picture? 

At the end of the day, though, who cares how much is real and how much isn’t? What really matters is whether or not his tales made me laugh and trust me, they did.

A lot of the material here involves his girlfriend. She’s older than him and that’s something he’s comfortable with (except for the fact he constantly worries she’ll pass away). Johnagin feels weird referring to her as his girlfriend because they have a new baby together (“together” being used very loosely). He isn’t against the idea of marrying her but he’s also not in love with the thought of marrying a chick who has a baby. 

I’m going to go ahead and assume that Johnagin’s girlfriend has no idea that he’s a comedian - or maybe she just has the best sense of humor in the world - because the stories he tells about her (like the time they tried to have sex while she was 8-1/2 months pregnant and he seriously underestimated how much she weighed) are so hilariously wrong, he must be the king of homemade “I owe you a massage for that joke” coupons.

Johnagin is witty and smart and you will love every minute you spend with him. Smoking may be allowed on the patio (There’s no way of knowing what I am actually referring to when I say that but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more clever metaphor for it) and he may or may not have been a little inebriated on the greatest night of his life, but at the end of the day this is a good guy. He can get hotter dudes than his girlfriend, he loves his baby way more than he loves yours, and he’s glad his baby isn’t ugly. 

Oh yeah. And he’s hilarious. I’m already looking forward to Part 4.