The name of the new CD from Mike Baldwin is Bees Can Taste With Their Feet. It is named as such, I assume, because toward the end of the album Baldwin explains that he doesn't just tell jokes. He also shares facts.
Following that same idea, I won't just review his CD, I will also share facts with you.
FACT: Mike Baldwin is funny.
FACT: Bees needs to be added to your comedy library right now.
It may take a minute or two to familiarize yourself with Baldwin's slightly-skewed approach to comedy and laid -back timing, but once you're dialed in to his wavelength, you're in for a fun ride. He has a great bit about why ninjas probably aren't fans of autumn that serves as "a tester joke." Baldwin explains, "The people that get it, totally get it. The people that don't are like 'He's dumb. I don't like him already.'" He then adds, "Well, that's pretty much how all of these are gonna go, so..."
Fortunately, we get it.
Baldwin tells his stories with a childlike enthusiasm, almost as if he's impersonating the way a 9-year-old talks about what happened to him on the bus on the way home from school. He shares his stories with us like he's talking to his best friend and he knows he can be totally honest. He tells us of his idea for a new mustard/ketchup/relish hybrid with an innocent zeal and doesn't mind taking Alan Jackson to task for not understanding how time zones operate ("If it's half-past anything, it's not five o'clock anywhere.")
On track 3, "Superpowers," Baldwin explains why he would love the power of flight - but only Superman-style, not like a bird - and he talks about having the ability to freeze time. I won't explain any more about this track lest I give something away (part of Baldwin's comedy strong suit is the unexpectedness of what unfolds, and I don't want to take that from him), but to suffice it to say Baldwin would put that power to some amazing use. "Superpowers" made me laugh so much, the cat left the room.
During one of his transitional pauses, Baldwin is heckled with one of the most random heckles I've heard: "Rest in peace, Mitch Hedberg!" Baldwin's response is not only brilliant but also a fine example of how quick he is on his feet.
Toward the very end of the album, Baldwin seems to lose a bit of steam. The material seems to have a few kinks that need worked through, the laughs are fewer, and, given the strength of the project up to the point, I was a little surprised to find him allowing the audience to slip away. Fortunately, Baldwin is able to regain his footing and bring us all back around with the aforementioned facts he enjoys passing on.
By the time he is thanking the crowd and wishing us a good night, Baldwin is back on top. The rough patch he was able to work through is more of a small mis-step than a deal breaker and at the end of his set, I found myself truly happy to have stumbled upon Bees.
One final note: The first time I listened to this CD, I was home sick suffering from kidney stones. As you may - or may not - have heard, they can be pretty painful. I almost put off listening to this project for a later time because the pain was so intense, I didn't want it to distract from my listening; I wanted to give the CD my full attention. As it turned out, though, the opposite happened. Baldwin had me laughing so hard, even through the intense pain I was experiencing, I knew I was listening to something special. If something could make me laugh as much as I did while it felt like my stomach was going to explode, I knew it must be pretty funny. Later, upon listening to the CD a few more times after the pain had gone away, I was happy to discover I wasn't delusional. This CD is indeed amazing.
FACT: Bees can taste with their feet.
FACT: Mike Baldwin is stronger than kidney stones.