Call me old-fashioned or boring or whatever clever insult strikes a chord with you, but I'm beginning to fear the pre-produced high-energy intros found on comedy albums. More often than not, it ends up coming off like a bad WWE match where all of the work and production value goes into the glitzy introduction, the main event hyped up to a level that in all reality will not attained.
Michael Malone's new release, Let's Get Physical begins with his appearance on a morning zoo-type radio show, complete with crazy sound effects and hosted by the deep-voiced male version of Robin Quivers whose job it is to laugh way too hard at every word uttered by the in-studio guest. When asked what kind of show people can expect from him, Malone promises high energy with a lot of characters and funny faces.
Slowly a driving techno beat begins to build in the background as we are then whisked away to his big show. The music gets louder and you can almost see Malone in the wings, jumping up and down in place like a boxer waiting to make his triumphant journey into the ring.
It's a lot of bells and whistles and it doesn't quite reflect Malone's regular-energy persona and style. He doesn't necessarily burst onto stage with both barrels blazing and hey! Where are all of the fun characters we were promised? After an intro like that, I was certainly expecting more than the stereotypical gay/female voice and the oddly interchangeable Southern guy/black guy voice. Other than those two, it's pretty much just Malone being himself. We were also promised funny faces and, judging by the numerous long pauses scattered throughout the album with no explanation of what he's doing, I can only assume that's what's going on.
The crowd seems to be having fun and at times their over-the-top eruptions of laughter are a little suspicious. I don't know if they were sweetened up a bit in post-production or if they were promised free cookies every time they reacted or if they were all practicing to be morning radio DJs, but there were quite a few times when the joke-to-response ratio seemed way off-balance. It just struck me as odd that an aside like "Oh well" or "That was weird" would garner an outrageous explosion of unconstrained hysterical laughter from what sounds like an arena-sized audience.
For me, there didn't seem to be a lot of material here that was particularly unique or refreshing. Malone covers mostly standard comedy topics we've all heard before like men, women, and relationships. Not that comedians can't find new ways to cover such territory, but there weren't any insightful revelations to be found here. I don't know if you knew this, but apparently..wait for it...men and women are different.
I didn't laugh much as I listened to the CD, but that's OK because, just like the aforementioned radio DJ, Malone is more than willing to supply the laughter for us. He finds himself hilarious and I lost track of how many times he tells a punchline and then breaks out into full-on laughter.
Malone doesn't enjoy working with the crowd as much as he uses them merely as a device to move on to the next topic. His interactions with the audience are done so with a more-than-obvious agenda. At different points he asks,
- Are there any parents in the house?
- Are there any couples here?
- Does anyone here have any pets?
From there, Malone seems genuinely surprised at the affirmative answers he receives. Oh really? There are people here who have kids? Wow, that's amazing, because that's what I wanna talk about now.
Sometimes, though, it backfires. When Malone asks the women in the audience for their #1 complaint about men, it's very obvious he's fishing for a specific response. Ladies shout out one answer after another, and none of them are what Malone is looking for. Finally, he has to awkwardly supply the correct answer himself and he finally moves on with a subtle, "Well, usually people say..."
I'm sure there are people who will enjoy this album. As evidenced by the crowd recorded during this particular performance, people from Alabama love it. But for those of us looking for a fresh voice with something more original in their approach, it'll take more than just getting physical.