Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daniel Tosh's "Happy Thoughts"


As a kid growing up in northern Indiana, there were basically three types of comedy albums (or, more accurately, cassette tapes) I listened to:
  • the ones I could  play while my dad was in the room (Bill Cosby, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Steven Wright)
  • the ones I could play while my dad was in the room and shake my head in exaggerated I-Can't-Believe-He-Said-That disgust every time something "dirty" was talked about or the occasional f-bomb was dropped (Billy Crystal, Dennis Miller, Steve Martin)
  • and there was Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams.

I remember listening to these tapes late at night when my parents thought I was asleep, my ear jammed against my cassette player's speaker with the volume set barely above zero, snickering silently and hitting "pause" every time the audience burst into laughter for fear that the crowd's loud response would drown out the sound of my mom or dad walking down the hall toward my room. I was raised to think that guys who talked like Eddie and Robin - guys who talked about the things that Eddie and Robin talked about - were bad people. People this Christian honor student should never have anything to do with. But like the secretly rebellious teenager I was, I continued to listen. And I continued to laugh.

Listening to Eddie Murphy got you into a secret club in my small Hoosier high school. All you had to do was say one of the many passwords: "ice cream," "psyche" or "put a little tiny man in your butt" and there was a sense of "Ah....you've heard it, too. Come along and join our Society Of Good Kids Who've Heard The Tape."

After listening to Daniel Tosh's new album Happy Thoughts, I couldn't help but be taken back to my junior high Covert Comedy-listening sessions and I smiled knowing this project will send "good kids" across America scrambling to pop in their headphones and, when asked what they're laughing at, force them to lie and say "Brian Regan." Just like my comedy heroes from the past, Tosh thrives in saying things he shouldn't. Yea, we shouldn't encourage the kid in Sunday School who sits in the back and makes sarcastic comments by laughing at his off-handed remarks, but when he's as funny as Daniel Tosh is, keeping a straight face is much easier said than done.

My expectations going in to Happy Thoughts were pretty high, I'll admit it. I'm a big fan of Tosh's past two releases as well as his TV show, Tosh.0. I tried not to get myself too hyped up about this new project, as I felt I was setting myself up for disappointment. I knew there was no way it could be as funny as I wished it would be.

I was wrong.

As high as my expectations were, Tosh blew them away.

Happy Thoughts was recorded in San Francisco. We're all aware of what San Fran is known for, and that's immediately where Tosh starts. From that point on, it's full speed ahead and Tosh isn't waiting around for you to catch up. He grabs the listener by the hand and takes you to a special place, a place where jokes make you go "Oohhhhhh" because you know we shouldn't be laughing at that. It's a place where Tosh doesn't give you time to recover from your "Oohhhhh" before he sucker-punches you in the gut with one tag after another, building a teetering Jenga tower of jokes, observations, and off-handed remarks that society and parents and teachers and PETA activists and news reporters and youth leaders and guidance counselors and our grandparents and Oprah and everyone else with a voice tells us we shouldn't laugh at, but we do anyhow. And then, with the manic glee of a child after too much Juicy Juice, Tosh takes both hands and swipes the Jenga blocks from the table with a triumphant, devilish laugh. Sometimes it's done by talking about the baby everyone wants to violate (AKA Pittkham) and sometimes all he has to do is reveal that the name of the joke you just laughed so hard at is "Hispanics Are Criminals."

And then Tosh follows up your feigned disgust with disclaimers like : "Go ahead, dumb people, be offended by a joke that doesn't have a plausible premise" and "Hang in there, it gets worse." From there Tosh gives a friendly warning ("Heads up, Mormons, this joke's gonna sting") and we're off once again.

Tosh's musings don't just raise important social questions. He gives us answers.
  • Why do we have the Winter Olympics? (So white people feel relevant in sports)
  • What is the real message of The Blind Side? (Kidnapping can be profitable.)
  • Did Chris Brown really beat up Rihanna or did she just get too close to him while he was dancing? (Not sure. Wasn't there.)

Whether it's wild fires, the Katrina disaster, Michael Phelps, rape whistles, being a bad test-taker or a kid being beheaded by the Batman ride at Six Flags (true story), Daniel Tosh has once again done just what we needed him to do. He looked at the information, processed it, and said, "How can I make this funny?"

It's been 25 years since I was that 15-year-old kid afraid that my parents would find out what I was listening to and I no longer feel the need to hide what's making me laugh under a bushel. That's right, mom and dad. I listened to Daniel Tosh's Happy Thoughts and it made me laugh. Out loud. I listened to it a lot, and I'm going to listen to it again.

There. I said it.

True, the fact that neither one of my parents read my blogs made it easier to say, but that's beside the point. I laughed, and you will, too. Whether or not you decide to tell your parents is up to you.

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3 comments:

  1. Daniel Tosh Happy ThoughtsMarch 6, 2011 at 8:15 PM

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  2. I was about 9 years old listening to Richard Pryor's "Super Ni***r" Obviously I did not grow up in a Christian home. Dad's only rule, was don't let your sister hear it. Apparently being a girl somehow made her too sensitive to hear such things @ 7 that I could @ 9. I remember being 12 years old and wearing out (to the point it dragged during the drunk father bit-"Your wife ain't Puerto Rican! Your wife's a bigfoot, Gus!") a bootlegged blank cassette of Eddie Murphy's Delirious.

    Great post Ed! This one brought back some great childhood memories. Stuff that as an adult I would never let my kids do, but great none the less.

    Look forward to hearing this at some point. Tosh's rambling, seemingly disconnected-but-actually-quite-connected thoughts are hilarious and stand out in a sea of stand up where everyone kinda borrows from the same 3-4 premises.

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