Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Andrew Rivers & Adam Norwest: "Future Sex/Love Jokes"

Compilation albums can be tricky to navigate. You need to make sure the comedians who appear on the album are of equal caliber and complement each other. Yes, it's important that the comedians are funny, but the producer of the album/tour/show also has to keep in mind the overall vibe of the show. One comic in the wrong place can throw a monkey wrench in the entire show. When it works (The Comedians of Comedy) it works. And when it doesn't, it can make for a very uneven project (Pick a Comic Relief album, any Comic Relief album). Unfortunately, Future Sex/Love Jokes falls into the latter category. In this case, the comics are so unbalanced, there's little either of them can do to right the ship.

The album begins with a set from Andrew Rivers. Actually, the album begins with some of the most ear-piercing screaming your poor ears will ever be subjected to. The production quality on the CD is very poor, and the audience's microphones are way too hot. There are three or four women in the audience who are the kind of people you instantly hate as soon as they make their presence known in the club. They are determined to make their presence known and they scream at the top of their lungs any time there's a lull. And there are a good number of lulls for them to fill. Every time they screech their banshee-from-hell wails, the audio on the CD distorts horribly as if it were recorded on a hand-held tape recorder from 1987. As I mentioned earlier, their levels are much, much louder than they need to be. So much so, my listening experience was pretty much ruined in the first 5 minutes. I had to set my iPod's volume level to about 45% just to compensate, and the sound still distorted every time they took it upon themselves to whoop it up. And they whoop it up throughout the entire album.

When I listen to CDs for review, as a rule of thumb I listen at least three times. In all honesty I absolutely dreaded the idea of listening even a second time to this album just because the production value was so poor. Let this be a lesson to all up-and-coming comedians: I know you want to have a CD really badly and feel you need a CD to sell at your shows to help cut your costs, and if you only had a CD you could put it up on iTunes and make a buttload of money, but remember, if you're not at the point where you can afford to put out a project that doesn't give the listener an ear-splitting headache, then be patient. Wait it out.

Also, if you invite your friends to your CD recording so you can ensure you'll have a good crowd, remind them they don't have to scream and yell at everything you say. Despite what they may think, it doesn't make for a better experience and it doesn't make you sound funnier. It just makes me hate your loudmouthed screechy friends. I know I should be focusing on the comedy content and not on the production or the audience, but I can't not mention it; it really is that much of a distraction. I mean, seriously, I've already written 550 words and I still haven't gotten to the comedy.

That's how much it matters that you put out a quality project.

As I mentioned in the outset, making sure the comics on a double-billed CD are equally matched is of the utmost importance. I dabble in drawing doodles in my free time. I usually doodle celebrities from photos in magazines or on the internet. Sometimes I do a pretty good job and sometimes I don't. I have a few that I'm pretty proud of, but overall, I'm just OK. I think it's important to recognize your own limitations, which is why I call them "doodles" and not "caricatures." As good as I may think some of them have turned out, I also know that if you sat me down beside someone like Tom Richmond and told us to draw the same celebrity, he would blow me out of the water. It wouldn't even be close, and I freely admit it. And, because he is so talented, so seasoned, so....so good at what he does and - it doesn't hurt my feelings to say it - I'm not, his drawing is going to look even better sitting next to my amateurish scribbles. And, naturally, mine will pale in comparison even more sitting next to his.

I said all of that to bring me around to my original point: when you put two people doing the same thing side-by-side, one after the other, people are naturally going to start to compare and contrast, so unless you're setting out to intentionally make someone look good and someone look bad, be careful.

In the case of Future Sex/Love Jokes, Andrew Rivers comes up short. He hasn't yet found his voice and decided who he wants to be as a comedian. Does he want to be the smart cocky guy who calls out Hooters girls for being stupid? Or does he honestly want us to believe he's so naive he went to a barber shop thinking it was a place to receive oral sex simply because the word "Head" was in its name? In this case, Rivers tries to do both, and it ends up making for an uneven set.

Adam Norwest, on the other hand, is the one to keep an eye on. His anecdotes are based on scenarios people can relate to. His unhappiness with his physical presence includes his desire to be bigger, stronger, and just...as he puts it - to look like a man. "I wanna be strong," Norwest pines, "I don't wanna fight, I just wanna make it easier to get ice cream out of the container. Right now I have to leave it on the counter for an hour until it's soft like these precious arms."

Norwest is at his most entertaining when he is at his most vulnerable, whether he's discussing his insecurities with his body image, trying to deal with driving a car filled with drunks, or his conversations with his girlfriend about The Future. I especially enjoyed Norwest's bit on the Spanx infomercial, which includes testimonials from women who claim to have lost six inches. His reaction is brilliantly simple: "You didn't lose it...You moved it."

The album ends, inexplicably so, with a single track from Jubal Flagg. His set is decent enough, but I still haven't completely figured out why it's here. Besides a small mention in the liner notes, Flagg doesn't appear on any of the album packaging.

As an entire album, I can't recommend Future Sex/Love Jokes. Fortunately, iTunes lets you download individual tracks and in this case, with Adam Norwest standing out the way he does, that's the way to go.


Future Sex/Love Jokes is available from Life Row

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