Thursday, February 23, 2017

Joe DeRosa's "You Let Me Down"

By virtue of writing this review, I'm veering perilously close to the cesspool of people whom Joe DeRosa warns us to avoid on his new project, You Let Me Down. To be honest, I can't say he'd be wrong. The Internet really is chock-full of people who think the rest of the world needs to be informed of their every thought and opinion simply because they have access to a keyboard and free coffee-shop wifi. 

I've always been careful to stress that my opinions here at Comedy Reviews are exactly that: opinions. You may very well disagree with my point of view, my style of writing, or the font I've lazily chosen, and that's totally allowed. At the end of the day, I'm just a dork who enjoys listening to - and writing about - stand-up comedy with very little actual stand-up experience that would qualify me to do so. 

I say all of that to say this: I really liked You Let Me Down. It made me laugh. A lot.

And now, as is the duty of every self-proclaimed online reviewer, I shall expound despite the fact no one asked me to.

I've been a fan of DeRosa's for some time now (long-time readers of the site may recall my very first review was his The Depression Auction CD), and despite the title of this newest outing he has yet to let me down. There are few people who can wring so much funny out of so much disgruntledness. As DeRosa gets more and more wound up (Why can't we just go back to punching each other in the face? Why do we insist on open-casket funerals? And seriously, Arizona... what the hell is wrong with you?), the humor of his rants escalates proportionally. 

Unlike many comics shining the light of WTF on people and situations around them, DeRosa isn't doing so from a position of superiority. He's transparent about his battle with anxiety and the one-on-one confrontations he and Prozac have battled out. That being said, there's a lot out there begging to be dealt with and taken down a peg or two and Joe is just the guy for the job. 

DeRosa has no patience for Olympic athletes and even less understanding of the confusion that sets in when they inevitably act up. Of course Ryan Lochte did what he did; he's an athlete and... well... athletes are assholes. Where's the mystery?

It's golden geese like these whose necks DeRosa so gleefully throttles on this album, and to be completely honest, it's a great thing to witness. He doesn't shy away from being what may be perceived as politically incorrect and, of course, therein lies the comedy. He refuses to play it safe and as a result we get some great bits on gender equality (Are we fistfighting or not?), dating apps (There's a fine line between psychopaths, sociopaths, and serial killers), and porn (It's a shame that when it comes to entering the industry the door is no longer exit-only).

Despite what appears to be a dismal outlook on society, his seemingly constant state of dissatisfaction, or his general mode of being annoyed, one can't help but see through the entire facade. You just get the sense that buried deep down beneath the exasperation beats the heart of a genuinely good guy - or at least the heart of someone doing his best to be good. 

But then... another celebrity gets a free pass just because they're a celebrity and another douche golfer throws a hissy fit and another homicide cop gives an interview that makes him sound crazier than the maniac he's hunting and... well... 

Seriously, can we just start punching people in the face again?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chad Daniels's "Footprints on the Moon"

In 2012 I named Chad Daniels’s CD You’re the Best as my favorite album of the year. In 2014, with the release of Natural Selection, he confirmed my suspicions that 2012 was not a fluke. This month he dropped Footprints on the Moon, submitting to the Courts of Comedy undeniable proof that yes indeed, he is one of the most consistently funny comedians working today. There aren’t many comics out there who get me to laugh so hard, so often, and so unexpectedly.

After being a fan of Daniels for a few years you’d think by now I’d be used to the way he uses his family as a primo source of material (this time around his wife gets off scot-free thanks to the distraction that are their children), but still I laughed every time he mentioned the joyously delightful day his son turns 18 so he can full-on punch him in the face.

I love the gleeful, carefree way in which Daniels thumbs his nose at institutions and ideals society demands we treat with the utmost tender loving care. Bullying seminars only encourage that which the dorky teacher is trying to deter us from (“Some people think bullying is horrible, but it made my daughter prettier”) and when it comes to dealing with kids on The Spectrum, maybe we should clarify a few things first (like what exactly The Spectrum is and the proper way to spell “BAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHRHRRR”).

A good portion of the CD is dedicated to Daniels’s 16-year-old son who, as he is described, “is currently a piece of shit.” You’ll find yourself cracking up as we get a peek inside the house as father and child desperately try - and spectacularly fail - to communicate. It’s hard when your kid has the vocabulary of a foreign exchange student, when you daren’t step foot in his room for fear of stubbing your toe on a sock, or when you find… well… I’m not going to spoil here what was found on the bathroom sink or share the multi almost-sentence response that resulted because the joy of the bit is in the discovery.

I can’t wait for Daniels's daughter to become old enough to start doing stand-up comedy because if she’s half as funny then as she is now as a child, she’s going to make millions of people happy. Hearing how she dealt with a loud M & M-eater at a viewing of The LEGO Movie is priceless (even if she did need a small assist from dad) and the way she reasons with an IHOP employee who refuses to accept a passport as a valid form of identification is nothing less than comedy brilliance.

At the center of it all, of course, is Daniels, standing still in the eye of the storm that is life, incredulously spectating as lists of how to be a great husband - as written by a multiple divorcee - and significant others with hot-breath and restless-leg syndrome swirl around him. You can almost see the “Can you believe this shit” expression on his face.

Footprints on the Moon is an incredible project by a brilliant comic who reminds us that, as insane as our situation may be, we need to find time to laugh every day.

Every day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lachlan Patterson's "Live from Venice Beach"

Back in 2010 I bought Jokes to Make Love To, an incredible debut CD by the very talented Lachlan Patterson. I knew nothing about him at the time but was looking for some new comedy and the album had just dropped. Before I could give it a listen Sarah and I took a trip to California. While we were there we stopped by one of my favorite stand-up venues, The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. We were there for one of their “10 Comedians” showcases and Patterson was in the lineup.
There were some great comics there that night (it was also my introduction to Kirk Fox and Brian Scolaro) and Lachlan was one of the standouts. It wasn’t until afterward when we stopped to say hello at his makeshift merch table and I saw - and recognized - the cover of the CDs he was selling that I realized I had just purchased his album a few days prior. #comedykismet
Since then I’ve been keeping an eye and ear out for Lachlan and more of his comedy. Unfortunately because he was based out of - and mostly working in - the West Coast and I was living in Pennsylvania, his blips on my radar were few and far between.
A few years later I was thrilled to see Patterson pop up on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and even more thrilled to see him make it all the way to the finals. Surely this meant we would be treated to a new album soon, correct? 
My wait continued.
I did research - and even got to chat with Patterson as part of my Foot in the Door podcast - and was given a ray of hope when I learned he was working on getting another project released out into the wild. 
I waited patiently. And sometimes not-so-patiently.
Just over a month ago I finally had the great pleasure to sit down with his sophomore CD (Spoiler: No slump here) and I am pleased to report it’s been worth the wait. Even more than worth the wait. 
For those who caught Patterson on LCS or have been fortunate enough to catch him live, you know he takes the stage fully owning the unique delivery that wonderfully accentuates his perfectly-twisted outlook on life. He masters the art of the callback like a seasoned street hustler dealing Three-Card Monte: They (yes, he cleverly juggles more than one) come at you when least expected and because you don’t see them coming, they land with an extra wallop. 
There are so many solid bits on the album it’s difficult to narrow down a starting point...and that’s a great problem to have. You’ll never catch me complaining about a CD that has one great moment after another and I’ve definitely got no gripes about Live from Venice Beach.
Let’s just start with the George Foreman grill, shall we?
It’s a product that’s been around so long I feel there should already be a million jokes about it - and maybe there are - but after listening to Patterson go toe-to-toe with it and deliver a solid knockout, any other contenders have been wiped from my memory. It’s the grilling (no pun intended) that the iconic kitchen appliance has been begging for, yet for some inexplicable reason has always eluded - until now.
It’s a comedian’s job to point out everyday encounters and situations whose commonplace existence in society often masks how ridiculous it is, and Patterson really excels at helping us remove our blinders. Weddings are annoying and the mere concept of a bridesmaid is kind of stupid. A lot birds do have names severely lacking creativity and Brita filters genuinely are the dial-up version of obtaining water in a high-speed world.
And football. Really. Someone really does owe an explanation for the hike because… wow. Yeah. It never struck me as odd before but Patterson is spot on. There must genuinely be a dozen better ways to hand a football to someone that aren’t so - for lack of a better word - creeeeeeeeeepy.
Whether you’re already a tried and true fan of Patterson (like me) or have no idea who he is (like me seven years ago), I’m confident in saying you’ll really enjoy this CD. Considering how long I’ve been waiting for another comedy fix from him, it’s only natural that I went in with high expectations; expectations that were more than exceeded. I don’t know how long it’ll be before we get another project from Lachlan but until that time I rest easy knowing I have Live from Venice Beach to tide me over.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Daniel Tosh's "People Pleaser"

In light of recent events across the world dealing with comedians being prosecuted and persecuted for the jokes they tell, I’m glad we have comedians like Daniel Tosh. We need to be shocked. We need to laugh at what shocked us. And then we need to be shocked again. 

If you’re familiar with Tosh and his comedy then you know that’s his strong suit and with his new CD, “People Pleaser,” he doesn’t disappoint. I’d like to share some of his one-liners here, but to be honest, I don’t know how well it would translate. It’s not solely what he says, but also they way it’s delivered. With his trademark cocky persona and who-gives-a-crap attitude, he’s the perfect comedy caricature. Tosh the comedian belongs in the same category as Archie Bunker or Don Rickles. We don’t laugh because we agree with what they’re saying, but because what they’re saying is so incredibly outrageous and should never be said aloud. 

Sometimes that approach gets Tosh into trouble, as he briefly touches upon when he mentions a recent joke that blew up social media and offended people who don’t completely understand how an on-screen persona works. Of course, he responds exactly how you’d think he would respond, by pouring grease on the fire and then throwing the fire at his loved ones.

Considering the current state of the nation, perhaps Tosh is exactly the comedian we need. We’ve been coddled and waited on long enough. It’s about time someone gave us some much-needed straight talk. He’s talking to you, “America’s Number One”-ers, half-marathon runners, hoarders, female Crossfitters, and people who have ever uttered the sentence, “There’s nothing funny about _________.”

We’ve become such a reactionary society, so eager to post on Facebook yet another story about how someone dared offend us, Tosh is a breath of fresh air amid the pollution of “you hurt my feels!” that I’ve been choking on as of late. 

No one is safe. Not kids with terminal illnesses, not the Dyson company (I wish I could see the looks on their faces when they hear their “product placement”), not cafe artists with no idea of how to price their work, and certainly not the city of Cleveland.

Tosh isn’t for everyone and he’d be the first to tell you that (he warns the crowd on more than one occasion that it’s about to get worse. A lot worse) and that’s totally fine. If you’re not a fan of Tosh or his comedy, then you’ll actually enjoy his bit on the time he lost a road rage battle. There are few things that are as glorious as seeing someone you can’t stand get a face full of chewed-up Doritos. But, if you’re like me and enjoy his comedy, then you’ll also enjoy the story of the time he won a road rage battle. 

“People Pleaser” may not please all of the people all of the time, but let’s be honest, it’s not supposed to. And it's no fun if someone doesn’t get angry.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Keith Alberstadt's "Walk It Off"

Spring has sprung and with it comes the emergence of warmer weather, driving with your windows rolled down, and longer daylight hours. Perhaps the most welcome arrival, though, is “Walk It Off,” the outstanding new release from Keith Alberstadt that hasn’t left my playlist since the day it came out. 

With friendly sarcasm accentuated by his punchy delivery, this project has been the perfect way to quench what has been a relatively dry comedy spell for me. When I use the phrase “friendly sarcasm,” it’s exactly what I mean. It can be hard to be sarcastic without coming off as angry, condescending, or jagoff-y. Alberstadt pulls off what most comics can’t: making snarky-yet-truthful comments that are laugh-out-loud funny without resorting to mean-spirited take-no-prisoners comedy. There are no victims here…Except for the fish keeping its eye on the food container. Or people who drink green tea. Or Alberstadt’s dad (but only while answering his smart phone)

Reading the track listing is an exercise in “Ah yeah, that was a good one, too” and I’m smirking now recalling the toddler who has trouble with the letter “R,” the vegan-intruder pillow barricade, white noise birds, and the parenting style in the 80s that inspired the title of the CD. As I’m sitting here smiling to myself, I’m wondering if it’s not unlike Alberstadt’s own creepy smile he didn’t even know he had.

I usually allow a few minutes at the beginning of a comedian’s set to allow him (or her) to settle in, get a feel for the crowd, and find their groove. That’s never been the case with Alberstadt. He’s good to go from the get-go. He’s comfortable on stage and from the second he begins there’s no doubt that he’s got this. It’s pretty impressive how quickly he puts the crowd at ease and there’s not even a moment of “gimme a second” trepidation.

What I’m trying to say - as if you couldn’t already tell - is I really enjoyed this album and the third time listening was just as enjoyable as the first. Usually when I write a review for this blog I listen, listen again, listen yet again, write, and then archive it. That won’t be the case this time around. This is comedy you’ll want to hang on to for a while. 

Or at least until something scares away the white noise birds. After that…you’re on your own.