Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christina Pazsitzky's "It's Hard Being A Person"

I'll be honest with you (Of course I will. If I wasn't honest with you, I wouldn't have the passionate feedback on some of my less-than-flattering reviews): Upon my first listen of Christina Pazsitzky's album It's Hard Being A Person, I really didn't care for it. There were a few smirk-inducing moments, but nothing that really grabbed me by the ears and made me laugh out loud (not that grabbing me by the ears makes me laugh out loud).

I couldn't quite place what it was that seemed "off." A lot of her material, especially in the first few opening tracks, is geared mostly toward the fairer sex and she seems to sincerely think that raspberries (you know, the "thlbt" noise you make with your tongue) = comedy.

But what really stood out to me was the fact Pazsitzky seemed to have a hard time finding a voice that is truly her own. She greets the crowd with a strikingly Maria Bamford-esque raspy, fake whisper voice but after a few lines morphs back into her natural self. She ends the album with an apology to anyone she may have offended that sounds lifted straight from a Lisa Lampanelli closing track. I found it a bit interesting that she felt the need to pseudo-apologize at all, as she isn't really a shock/insult comedian and for the most part I can't imagine she offended anyone.

Please understand I'm not saying that Pazsitzky is swiping jokes from these - or other - comics. It just seemed that there were a few times she - as Dane Cook so eloquently put it - was borrowing the essences of people she enjoys. We've all done it. We've all been influenced, often times without realizing it, by pop culture and things that make us laugh. There are some comics who admit they don't like to listen to comedy CDs lest they unconsciously lift material or delivery. And, of course, when many comedians first start out they tend to speak in the voice of the comics they admire and look up to rather than finding a style of their own. It's nothing intentional, it's just what happens.

And so, part of me feels that may be the case here. And sometimes it's not the delivery but the choice of words that stood out a bit. I just re-watched Bend It Like Beckham last week and in one scene the Indian women are being fitted for saris. One woman teases the less-than-buxom girl she is measuring by saying that one day she will have "juicy juicy mangoes." It was a line that cracked up my wife and me and we worked it into our conversations a couple of times later that day just for the heck of it.

So, when Pazsitzky gets a huge laugh from the crowd by using that exact same phrase in the exact same accent ("Juicy juicy mangoes!") while she talks about her Indian step-father, I felt a little cheated. It was like she didn't write a punchline but instead "borrowed" a funny line from a somewhat-obscure movie that most people have forgotten by now. At another point she tosses out the phrase "finger blasting" as if it's her own and, again, it gets a huge reaction from the crowd. Again, my first response was, "Hey, no fair!"

It immediately reminded me of the first time I listened to Robin Williams's Live 2002 project and he was spouting phrases and punchlines I had seen on bumper stickers, email forwards, and MySpace posts years earlier. He wasn't being ironic by referencing the familiar quips but seemed to genuinely be claiming them as his own. Whether it was intentional or he just forgot where he heard them and eventually just started to assimilate them into his act, I don't know, but it didn't sit well with me. Which is why, when Pazsitzky does the same, it's a bit off-putting.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't fall in love with this project on my first listen but on each of the two subsequent spins (I listen to everything three times before starting in on the review) I came to appreciate it more and more. When things click with Pazsitzky, they really do come together quite nicely. Some of my favorite bits include the casting process for the movie Monster with Charlize Theron, living in a bad L.A. neighborhood, and her message to girls in their early 20s from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Despite the fact I truly enjoyed those moments, they were greatly outweighed by much more basic connect-the-dots material (and those blasted raspberries). Pazsitzky is a confident presence on stage and I feel once she really gets a feel for who she is and exactly what she wants her stage persona to be, she'll be a real force to be reckoned with.

Yes, it's hard being a person, and even harder being a stand-up comedian (which is why, as you'll notice, I'm not one), but the two are connected and I'm looking forward to seeing how Pazsitzky develops. I truly hope I'll end up eating my words.

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