For anyone striving to "make it" in the entertainment world, one of the trickiest things to do is hone your timing. Even though this blog deals with stand-up, in this instance I'm not referring to comedic timing. Instead, I'm talking about timing your move(s) in the industry. Like someone waiting to dive into a game of double dutch, you can't just jump in without planning your move, making sure that you're ready, and recognizing your open spot when you see it.
Despite how much you may want to get in there and take part in some super-complicated jump rope adventures, you can't just hop in because you want to. You've got to make sure the time is right. You need to know what you're doing and, as ready as you think you are, make sure the ropes are ready for you.
As someone who's spent the better part of the last ten years in some aspect of the music industry, I've run into a few people who immediately want to know how they can get a record deal and want to know what I can do to pull some strings for them (the fact they think I wield that kind of power always makes me shake my head and smile in a "Tsk, tsk, you poor deluded child" kind of way). They're always convinced if they could just get a label to sign them, everything from that point on would be cake. Never mind the fact that their songwriting stinks, they don't play well as a band, none of them can sing, and they don't have any original songs of their own. They just want a record deal and very rarely are they receptive to the idea that they may not be ready.
Likewise, I've listened to a few comedy albums this year from comedians who weren't ready. They had some good ideas and starting points, but still... Just because someone has a buddy with an MP3 recorder doesn't mean you should start in on artwork for your CD just yet. If you're not ready, you'll find yourself in the middle of the schoolyard with a tangle of jump rope around your feet.
But if you are ready...oh man, it's a beautiful thing.
Which brings me to the topic at hand: Adam Newman's album, Not for Horses.
To put it simply, Adam Newman was ready.
This is a guy who's put in the time and work and the end result is a debut project that most definitely does not sound like someone's debut project. Newman is an engaging, confident, smart storyteller who isn't intimidated by the crowd. In fact, he's so not intimidated by them, he starts off his set by giving them a hard time for enjoying the Billy Joel-parodying comic who opened for him. It's a brilliant move, as he has immediately brought the crowd in on the joke, incorporated everyone in the room into his act - even got them to laugh at themselves - and as a result they are with him the entire rest of the show.
Of course, the fact that Newman is genuinely funny doesn't hurt, either. His stories are ones that could have happened to any of us and nothing rings of being ridiculous, fabricated, or implausible. If there's anything here that didn't actually happen to him in real life, he's done a remarkable job of hiding the seams.
Newman finds the humor in the ordinary and mundane. True, he's not the first comedian to excel in the details of life's routine, but he does it very well and that's what counts. If you can mine big laughs out of working eight hours a day at an online medical journal updating email lists, then you're on to something.
"Horses" is a CD that demands immediate repeated listenings because you want to re-live the joy of Newman's tales and you want to do it as soon as possible. Whether it's his re-telling of #69 on VH1's list of Most Metal Moments, finding himself on the wrong end of a burrito gun, or getting fired on Casual Friday, don't be surprised if you find yourself telling your friends about him even before you've finished your first listen-to. I was barely halfway through when I was emailing and Google+-ing, hyping him to my friends. Newman's careful attention to the smallest details of an Ernest film and a room full of second-graders trying to do "The Worm" are just a couple of bits that spurred on this word-of-mouth chain reaction.
At first, it may be hard for you to believe the warning that appears on the side of economy-sized pickle buckets actually exists, but I can vouch for Newman. I've seen the same warning on 5-gallon buckets of paint and knowing it's not something that was just made up for the sake of a bit actually makes Newman's observations even funnier.
A strange man's late-night grocery store purchase. T-shirts at truck stops. Dikembe Mutombo. Dealing with a dog who's had an afternoon snack three out of four veterinarians would definitely not recommend. For most people, these would just be blips on the radar of life that come and go without a second thought. Fortunately for us, Newman isn't so willing to let them go without commenting.
And just like that, Newman has jumped into the game. He's obviously worked hard to make his craft the best it could be and waited for his perfect spot to jump into the ropes. He paused for just the right moment, saw his opening, and went for it. And now here he is, doing comedy double dutch like a mad man.
Needless to say, his timing couldn't have been better.