Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Andy Ritchie's "King Ding-A-Ling"


King Ding-A-Ling is everything a comedy album should be. In fact, it's almost too much. There are so many great laughs to be found, it's hard to focus on just one without it leading to another and another and another. And another.

We've all been there: You buy a comedy CD and are disappointed with the severe shortage of laughter. There's nothing more disheartening than a comedian talking for 45 minutes and only bringing one or two good moments. This project, my friends, is the answer to that dilemma. Andy Ritchie has jam-packed each track on the CD with so much comedy, I almost felt like I was ripping him off.

Ritchie gets things off to a great start with a bit about shower heads and the less-than-soothing  "massage" setting. His take on everyday items elevates the seemingly mundane to the heights of hilarity. He started off setting the bar for himself pretty high and he doesn't falter once. This isn't a guy who has a strong opener, a solid closer, and a mushy so-so middle. If this were a musical project, there would be no ballads to slow down the pace;  it's just one captivating party jam after another. Even his off-handed asides and transitions between stories had me laughing out loud. I mean, come on, you won't hear a better beginning to a story than, "Here's the thing about me and pooping..."

As I listened to the album, I jotted down phrases and key words on a Post-It note to serve as reminders of what struck a chord with me. One Post-It turned to two, then three, and soon my desk was littered with a series of yellow squares with phrases like "Yogurt in the hot sun", "PT Cruiser = Dick Tracy if he were a single mom", and "Goth guys falling down the stairs" scrawled all over them. To most people, these would appear to be the random thoughts of a madman. In the hands of Andy Ritchie, they are the seeds of comedy brilliance.

Whether he's comparing the bombing of Canada to the act of punching a blind baby or noting that we rate peoples' level of retardation the same way we rate hot sauce, Ritchie has found a way of pulling the curtain back and revealing the seemingly ordinary for what it actually is: Completely jacked.

Ritchie is also quite skilled at misdirection. I won't explain too much here, as the point of misdirection is to make you unsuspecting of what's coming up around the corner, but suffice it to say he particularly shines when he's trying to teach us something, whether it's the Greenland/Iceland naming switcheroo or the real story behind the Huey Lewis/Ray Parker Jr spat.

When it comes to plotting gags, there's no shortage of ideas here. From the moment Ritchie explained the cell phone candy dispenser, I haven't been able to stop wondering if I could pull it off and have it be as funny in real life as it is when he explains it. The same goes for the funeral "Checkmate" trick. I know I would never have the guts to go through with it, but now that the idea has been planted in my brain, I can't help but wonder what would happen if. Kudos to Ritchie for pulling off the seemingly impossible feat of transitioning from a funereal practical joke to injured corporate peanut spokesmen. I know, they have nothing in common, but they blend surprisingly well. It's so smooth, you don't even realize he did it.

As good as the beginning and middle are, the ending of the CD couldn't have been any better. Ritchie dovetails a bit on ghosts, hauntings, and unfinished business into a wonderfully-crafted finale that wraps everything up with gut-busting simplicity. For those looking for an example of how comedy should be done - and a peek into the secret ingredient of shrimp-flavored ramen noodles - I believe I have found the answer.

All hail the King Ding-A-Ling.

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