A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about some of our favorite fictional characters: Bill Lumberg from Office Space, Michael Scott from The Office, and G.O.B. from Arrested Development. We agreed that, as much as we enjoy them as characters and can't get enough of them, if we knew them in real life, more than likely we wouldn't be so eager to spend time with them. It's a curious topic. Why are we so entertained by something that, in reality, would drive us nuts?
In his new CD, Kaboom, Dave Waite walks a similar line. He has chosen as his onstage persona a character somewhere between Will Ferrell's twisted impression of Harry Caray and Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons. Just how those characters are based on actual people yet have morphed into hyper-realized versions of the original, Waite rolls the two entities -- combined with a warped version of his own identity -- into a third character and dares the audience to spend an evening with him. He doesn't tell jokes to us as much as he tells them at us. Often times he follows them up with hackneyed catchphrases such as "Is this thing on?" and "Am I still on stage?"
To be honest, I'm not quite sure I "got it." It was reminiscent of the time Norm MacDonald roasted Bob Saget. At first, it seemed as if he was bombing horribly. I squirmed in my chair as I seemingly watched a comic whose work I usually enjoy go down in flames. But, as Norm went on, I -- and the audience -- realized that was Norm's intention. The fact that his jokes were so corny was the joke. It was a stroke of genius.
I listened to this album three times, and I'm still not sure if Waite was trying to capture similar lightning in a bottle. If so, it went over my head and, often times, it goes over the head of the crowd on the recording. Waite uses weathered catchphrases and pickup lines like "Let's party...and by party, I mean in my pants!" with such manic glee, I couldn't help but wonder what he knows that I don't. At one point he addresses the crowd's lack of response with "In my mind, it seems like that should be hilarious to you." Another time, it's simply, "If you get that joke later, call my cell phone and laugh into it, how 'bout that?"
Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but it struck me that there were a few times when Waite made such remarks it seemed he was seriously regretted recording his CD on that particular night and with that particular crowd. There was an exasperation in his voice that seemed to ring deeper than just comic effect. Specifically, there is a moment on the 4th track when he's working really hard and the laughs just aren't coming. He utters a "...fuck..." that made my heart go out to him. It was as if in that very moment he was consumed with the realization this lackluster response to his comedy would be forever etched into recorded history.
Granted, I may be way off base, but in that instance that little word seemed to carry a mammoth weight.
I don't want it to sound like this CD is nothing but awkward pauses. There are some sincerely clever bits that I enjoyed, especially his breakdown of a fast food commercial featuring raccoons, his short stint answering phones for Delta airlines, and the connection between Sarah Jessica Parker and "big gay horse face." As much as I enjoyed these bits, I wanted Waite to go a bit deeper with them instead of moving on to the next thing so quickly.
Kaboom is a difficult project to categorize and, again, that may be what Waite was going for. Part throwback to vaudevillian yukster, part Kaufman-esque comedian in search for a catchphrase ("Kaboom!" "Come on!" "All right!"), I still don't know what to think.
I'm not too proud to admit when I don't get something; when it zips right over my big, dumb head. And today, I cry "uncle."
You got me, Dave Waite. Kaboom.