I'm naturally a little wary when it comes to comedy albums that feature various artists. I don't know, maybe it's because I still wake up at night in a cold sweat with visions of Comic Relief III - accompanied by Elayne Boosler's hacky jokester voice - running through my head. But when you get it right ("Invite Them Up" or even Marc Maron's live-from-Comix podcasts), just like a killer line-up at a comedy club, an evening of big laughs is unavoidable.
I'm happy to say that Comedians You Should Know got it right.
The first comedian to take the stage is Marty DeRosa and he's a great choice to kick off the party (as well as a great choice to host/emcee the event) . He starts off by taking aim at women who text other people during shows, something we've all seen and been annoyed by a million times, yet this is the first time I've heard it addressed in a bit. DeRosa gets it right and then smoothly moves on to his experience of getting a haircut at an ethnic barber shop. When DeRosa boldly declares "Line it up!" I instantly started wondering how I could shoehorn that phrase into my next conversation. Whether he's explaining his summertime drinking game at Great America (it's almost a big fat "I can do ethnic jokes too, mofo" to Chris Rock) or telling the tale of how he ended up in an all-Hispanic comedy review because he was pre-judged by his last name, DeRosa did just what a comedian is supposed to do at a showcase event: he brought out some great bits, nailed every one of them, and then made me wonder when he's going to get his own full-length album.
Danny Kallas is up next and he picks up the momentum right where DeRosa left off. He begins with a Why Don't-Shake-A-Baby PSA's Shouldn't Be On The Back Of A Bus bit that kills and he has the audience right where he wants them straight out of the gate. From there, it's on to board games ("I don't like Scrabble; not because I have a difficult time spelling, but because I have a difficult time pretending I'm having fun") and Kallas's extremely passionate love for Fluffernutter. To be fair, Kallas is extremely passionate about a lot of things and when he gets around to the phrase "White Boy", you'd better make sure you're buckled in.
More often than not when you go to a club for a comedy night, there's one person that leaves you feeling a little - for lack of a better word - "Huh?" For me, that moment came with Michael Sanchez. He's introduced with a warning that he's "a weirdo" and a quick quip that he was just woken from a nap, and I'm wondering if maybe that wasn't too far from the truth. I don't mind off-kilter comics, and in the right hands deliberate, slower pacing can be an asset. I thought his premises were clever (sharing a sundae with another guy or having a phone conversation with Harrison Ford from the bathroom), but the problem I had with Sanchez was the payoff (or lack thereof) on his bits. He takes his time building up each joke and when we finally get to the punch, I couldn't help but feel the kicker wasn't proportional to how long it took to get there.
Joe Kilgallon is next on the mic and his place in the lineup couldn't have been any better. He instantly raises the energy level in the room and you can feel the audience coming to life with him. He has a great story about buying alcohol for minors that ends up being a valuable economic lesson. He defends the bad reviews his favorite bar received on Yelp and he talks about why he would rather be murdered in the city than in the country. He's a man who sincerely believes in his convictions and isn't afraid to stand up for what he believes, and because of that, he leaves the rest of us laughing.
Okay, now here's an interesting query: What can be used as both a punishment and a reward? There may be a lot of possible solutions to this riddle, but Mike Lebovitz has the funniest answer. And no, I'm not going to give it away here. How do you open your comedy set with summertime material even though it's the dead of winter? Once again, leave it to Mike Lebovitz, who will not only show you how to do it, but he'll then tell you it just happened. Who refers to his 8-year-old son as his "mistake" and wonders why you're not allowed to hit your kid (if you're white)? Who is a little disgruntled about how this economy has affected prostitutes? And who will have you laughing at things you know you shouldn't but can't help? Again, it's Mike Lebovitz, on all counts.
Drew Michael brings us home with a disturbing set where he reveals himself as the creeper he truly is. Sure, it's a little unsettling to hear him still obsessing about his ex-girlfriend, knowing he should want her to be happy but can't get to that point...but man, is it funny. Michael once stalked a woman to the point that she got a restraining order against him. And then - yes, after the restraining order was in effect - they had sex. I know it's not usually considered polite to laugh at someone else's pain, especially as the struggle to find the perfect relationship only seems to bring about more pain, but this isn't the time and place to be polite. This is comedy, and Michael has done his job. He didn't find the silver lining in the heartbreaking world of love, relationships, and friendship, but he did mine it for some amazing comedy gold.
Comedians You Should Know is an apt title. Especially since Comedians You Should Keep An Eye On So After They Hit It Big Time - And I Think They Will - You Can Brag To Your Friends You Knew Them "When" was probably a little too long.
Ed's Note: I was made aware of this CD from a reader who left a comment on one of my posts. I've always been open to suggestions of albums for review and in this case "sacc91" did not lead me astray. Thanks for the heads up!
Comedians You Should Know is available from The Red Bar Comedy Record Label