Sunday, December 4, 2011

Jim Florentine's "Cringe 'n' Purge"


Listening to Jim Florentine's new album Cringe 'N' Purge is like enjoying a visit from your long-lost older brother, home for the holidays and armed to the hilt with stories to impress you, make your parents blush, but mostly make you laugh. His delivery is low-keyed and comfortable, his storytelling relatable and down-to-earth. He's not so much a stand-up comedian performing for a crowd as much as he is a regular guy sharing the bar stool next to you and coming at you with tales you won't soon forget. In fact, I can almost hear him prefacing his adventures with an "All right you guys, you aren't gonna believe dis one..."

Florentine's set begins with a great disclaimer: "Basically if you DVR the show Glee this is gonna end badly for you," and he couldn't have said it better. We aren't here to change the world, take away life lessons, or learn how to better our society. We're here to laugh and if that means bruising an ego or stomping on a few toes along the way, well...whatever it takes, man. There's no sense trying to tiptoe around your Garden Of Sensitivity when it's much more fun -- and funnier -- to just crank up the Roto-Tiller and go nuts.

Fortunately the crowd knows just who Florentine is and what he brings to the table and they are more than willing to let him get this ha-ha party started. After all, it's difficult to judge when you're laughing so hard.

I especially like Florentine because he's not afraid to tell it like it is and if that means letting a buddy know his superstitions are ridiculous, then that's what's gonna happen. Whether it's someone knocking on wood or a football Super Fan sitting in their lucky seat, Florentine faces them head-on with the bravado of a man proudly roaming the aisles of Wal-Mart while holding an open umbrella (yeah, he does that, too).

Nothing fazes Florentine and when it comes to the two gay guys sitting in the front row, they only serve as a launch pad for his theory on why they "get it" and straight couples don't. Even something like choosing the perfect birthday gift can be broken down to a basic -- and admittedly primal -- solution.

Sometimes the best approach to a situation can be found by asking yourself what your dear ol' dad would do. Sometimes a wrong number is just a wrong number (you'd never catch Dad Googling a strange phone number in a fit of confused panic) and he'd never put up with the "convenience" of texting; neither the text-speak spelling like "c u l8r" nor the inanity of the messages themselves like "What r u doing?" or "R u mad? :(" When Florentine looks at social media through the eyes of his father, he makes us all long for a simpler, less technology-driven existence.

At the risk of making Florentine sound too much like his father, the truth is his rant on why he hates rap music (both the music and the artists) wouldn't be so effective if what he was saying wasn't so dead-on. Speaking of the music world, he also relates what it's like to be a comedian traveling with -- and opening for -- the rock band Slayer. Some of the material, like how rough their audiences are for a comedian, is to be expected but when he pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of a professional touring band, explaining why his own T-shirts sold for so much, his stories really flesh out nicely.

To call Florentine a 'shock comic' would be a bit of a misnomer as his goal isn't to see how loud he can make an audience groan or how far he can push the line. That being said, though, he is more than capable of getting just the reaction he wants and there are few people who can make an entire room explode into such spontaneous surprise and/or disgust, most notably when he reveals his tag-team partner in his bedroom pleasure-bringin' ways.

By the end of the album, the crowd is practically spent from laughter and one brave soul shouts out a tag for one of the jokes. Rather than call him out and rip him a new one, Florentine instead admits the heckle is funny and then vows to steal the add-on and use it for the next show.

It's Florentine's relaxed "Whatever, bro" vibe here -- and throughout the entire project -- that makes it so easy to enjoy the time spent with him. Sure, your parents may blush at some of the tales he shares during the family dinner, but it's only because he's so funny and we all know you're not supposed to enjoy cringing -- and possibly purging -- at the table.

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