Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Christopher Titus's "Neverlution!"


I always get a bit nervous when someone I'm a fan of comes out with a new project. I'm excited they're coming out with new material, I'm always anxious to hear it, yet I always feel a tug of trepidation, as I am haunted by a nagging fear of being let down by someone whose work I really enjoy. I don't want it to happen, but experience has taught me that sooner or later it's bound to happen. Steve Martin had his Mixed Nuts, Steven Spielberg had his 1941, and Martin Short had everything he's done since leaving Saturday Night Live (except for Three Amigos).

So, it was with a bit of a "Come onnnnnnnnnnn, dude" attitude that I approached the latest album for review.

As it turns out, I totally over-thought it. I had nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

Christopher Titus is back again and he's calling everyone to arms as only he can. There are a lot of things in our society that are unraveling and, with a total running time of nearly two hours, Titus pretty much touches on every last one of them. He's not looking for someone to merely sign an online petition or stand by, nodding in agreement as he passionately implores the audience to action; to, as the title of his new CD explains, a Neverlution. This is a man who is not only willing to shine the spotlight on what needs to be fixed but comes prepared with a backpack stuffed full of solutions. True, they may not be the solutions you had in mind (extremely late-term abortions up to the age of 22 for kids who aren't contributing, anyone?) but he offers them freely - and passionately - nonetheless.

Because the album has such a long running time, peaks and valleys are inevitable; Neverlution isn't unlike a Judd Apatow film in that respect. There are a few spots here and there that could be snipped or shortened, but Titus always has full control of the reins and always manages to get the show back on course. Unlike an Apatow film, however, the slower spots don't take away from the overall enjoyment. They're almost a necessity, as he couldn't physically maintain a level 10 performance throughout the entire show; he'd drop dead from exhaustion.

There are a handful of awkward moments but not through any fault of Titus's. Instead it's nothing more than a simple matter of bad timing, all thanks to the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden (he ruins everything!). Neverlution was recorded before that event had come to fruition and unfortunately it automatically nullifies a lot of what Titus has to say and his Bin Laden material already feels dated.

Despite that small hiccup, there's more than plenty of good stuff to go around. Comedy fans are definitely getting their money's worth and even if one bit doesn't hit hard, you can rest assured there's something that'll get you laughing coming up around the next corner. His set is brilliantly written and executed and you'll find yourself nodding along in agreement with much of what Titus has to say. We need to get our country back on track before it slips out of our hands, and that means accepting we've let ourselves go, taking responsibility, and smacking a few misbehaving kids upside the head along the way (It's OK. They deserve it).

Granted, he says it a little better than I do, but that's why he's doing what he's doing (creating consistent comedy with a conscience) and I am where I am (encouraging you to check it out).

Are you ready to step up to the plate and make a change? If you are (and, actually, even if you aren't), then it's time to hop on board with Christopher Titus and his Neverlution.

****

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tommy Johnagin's "Stand Up Comedy 2"


My reviews of comedy albums usually run anywhere from 500 to 700 words. I'll be the first to admit that can be a lot to take in, especially in a day when we are being forced/trained to express ourselves in 140 characters (not words) or less. That being said, I don't know how many of my posts are read in their entirety and Stand Up Comedy 2 by Tommy Johnigan is so good, I don't want to risk losing anyone before I'm able to impress upon them how amazing this CD is.

Seriously. I'm not kidding around. If I go to see a movie and I love it, I usually only tell people "It was OK," or "Yea, it was good, I really liked it."  I hate raising people's expectations because I don't want them to be let down. I've often found myself disappointed in a movie only because it couldn't possibly live up to everyone's hype. That being said, I'm breaking one of my own rules by coming right out and saying it...you need to have this album in your playlist.

As a matter of fact, let's pause for a moment right now so you can buy the album and then you can come back here and finish reading this while it's downloading.

hmm hmmmm...

Dum de dum...

OK, sweet. All good? Excellent. You've made a wise decision.

And now, as if you're reading the forward to a book, before you actually listen to your new purchase I will explain to you why you've just made the best comedy decision of the year.

To put it simply, this CD is nothing less than amazing. It's hilarious. It's clever. It's smart yet the material is easily accessible. There's something here for everyone regardless of your comedy palette. In fact, it's every synonym for the word "great" or "wonderful" that Roget could come up with.

The secret of Johnagin's success lies in the fact he's just a regular guy who finds himself in some amazing situations. Actually, to call them "amazing" may be something of a mislead. When I think about it, they're actually quite ordinary predicaments with no feel of being embellished for the sake of a nice gag. I'm not saying everything Johnagin says us 100% accurate, but there's nothing here that doesn't feel believable. Any or all of it could have happened. It's comedy through utter plausibility. These are completely ordinary situations any one of us could have stumbled into. What makes them truly "amazing" is how Johnigan reacts and then relays what happened to us.

For example, Johnigan and his girlfriend recently decided to smoke weed and it was their very first time. Not their first time as a couple but their first time, period. What's brilliant about his story is that he's not a teenager in high school living on the edge. He's an adult well aware of any and all consequences for his actions. His sense of responsibility only adds to the paranoia that swirls around them both and the situation takes a very funny turn when he realizes the drug's effects are hitting his girlfriend first.

Johnigan is a man who is at his most comfortable when things are going just the way they're supposed to go. When there is a hiccup, no matter how slight or inconsequential, he always has the best words to describe what's going down:
  • On his sister's 10-pound newborn: He looks like John Goodman from a distance.
  • On trying to carry on a conversation with younger women: Talkin' to a 20-year-old is like talkin' to a baby, except babies don't have bad ideas yet.
  • On women who are extra-forward on a first date: Stop biting and go away.

One of my favorite bits on the album is simply called "A Whimsical Story About Throwing A Baby" and it's exactly what it sounds like. Johnigan is up front about the fact that just because his sister has a baby, that doesn't automatically qualify him as a competent babysitter. To prove his point, he shares a tale that left me in tears.

When Johnigan eventually sets his sites to women and relationships, he stays on top and doesn't falter or lose his footing once. Safe words, mood swings that aren't really mood swings, and accidentally clacking teeth while kissing, Johnigan covers it all with amazing precision.

Everything comes to a close with a hidden track that begins with a story that explodes with humor at an exponential rate all because of a simple slip of the tongue by Johnigan. What unfolds is a hilarious improvised rant about wearing tires instead of used clothing and ends with Johnigan simply declaring, "I think that's gonna be a bonus track. There's no way that could be on the CD." I for one am glad he had second thoughts.

There's honestly not a single thing I can think f I didn't enjoy about this project and I can't recommend it enough. Tommy Johnigan is as good as I hope every comedian will be the first time I listen to their album. It sounds like hype, I know, but it's not. It's just the truth. I laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed.

I mean...you know...it was good. I liked it, yea.

OK, enough with the soft sell. Now go buy it.

***

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mike Stanley's "Tough Luck Chump"


Tough Luck Chump is the new DVD release from Mike Stanley, a comedian who is three parts Dave Attell, one part Bill Burr, and one part Dave Attell.

It's pretty common for comics who haven't yet discovered their own voice to emulate those whom they admire and have studied for years. That's not a bad thing; it's natural. It's just that Stanley really sounds like Dave Attell.

I freely admit I could be completely off-base in my theory that Stanley is an avid fan of Attell and, hence, has subconsciously picked up some of his nuances, but I found the similarities uncanny. Stanley's timing, delivery, and inflection are almost eerily identical (right down to including Attell's "Dumb Guy" voice) and there are moments that, if I closed my eyes, I couldn't differentiate between the two.

Most comedians who have been around for years and years can look back at their earliest work and point out inflection, tone, or gestures that were influenced by their comedy heroes. It's not the best example in the world, but even the old tapes of my performances in high school plays are teeming with Steve Martin references (Endless viewings of The Jerk and spending hours upon hours upon hours listening to A Wild and Crazy Guy tend to have that effect).

I don't hold the fact that Chump sounds like a lost Attell album against Stanley. I'm just really pulling for Stanley to find a voice that's his own and grow into it. Again, I could be completely mistaken. For all I know, this is Stanley and the fact he reminds me of someone could very well just be circumstance. If that's the case, I'll be the first to admit I'm full of it (And to be honest, even if it's not the case, there's a very good chance I'm still full of it).

One thing that I do know after giving Chump a few spins is this: There's a lot of stuff that pisses off Stanley. It doesn't take much to send him off the handle, whether it's children with cell phones, Planned Parenthood, or guys who lie about the size of their junk. Oh yea, I almost forgot. He hates, hates, hates Indiana. He hates everything about it. I don't know what happened to him in Indiana, but good Lord, he hates Indiana.

Hates it.

Stanley has some really fun premises that I would love to see him explore even deeper but he tends to wrap them up and ground them with an Attell-esque throwaway remark before they really get a chance to soar. At one point Stanley asks the crowd if they knew you could get a DUI while riding a bicycle and I was looking forward to hearing the tale of how Stanley discovered this fact. Instead he abandons the premise completely and transitions into something completely different. It left me wishing we hadn't moved on so fast. What about the bike DUI? I wanna hear that story!

Although Chump didn't bring many big laughs for me it's not for any lack of trying. In fact, I wonder if maybe sometimes he's not trying too hard. When he's not abandoning an anecdote before it really gets humming, he sometimes conjures up a lengthy setup just to get to a punchline whose payoff isn't proportionate to the time it took to get there. We follow his story of hooking up with a female bowler for quite a while before we finally get to the anticlimactic and sort-of predictable She Did Me Three Times, That's A Turkey! punchline.

As far as I could find, this release is available only on DVD and not as a CD/MP3 format. Hopefully, Stanley will make an audio version of the project available for people who may not want to drop $20. Otherwise, the title Tough Luck Chump takes on a whole new meaning.

***

UPDATE (7/7/11) - I've been informed this project will indeed be released as an audio format. Stay tuned to Stand Up! Records for information and release dates.

***

UPDATE #2 (9/10/11) - This project is now available in audio format and you can check it out right here.

***

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Adam Hammer's "Almost Clean"


Almost Clean, the debut album from Adam Hammer, is a nice introduction to a solid comedian. First impressions are important, and Hammer is off to a great start with nearly 50 minutes of strong material. He takes a laid-back approach to his stories rather than the in-your-face louder-is-funnier method many new comics tend to fall back on. It's a breath of fresh air and the laughs come easy. Hammer doesn't talk at or down to the crowd, but instead settles in like he's kicking back with friends on a Saturday afternoon; we've got a couple of brews, some great stories, and nowhere to go.

The CD kicks off with a couple of bits on hotels and life as a comedian on the road. Although it's a topic most comics have touched on at some point, Hammer's take is fresh and you aren't hearing stories you've already sat through a million times before. When he aims his sites at Motel 6 and reveals Tom Bodett's promise for the subtle, creepy threat it actually is, Hammer is banging on all cylinders.

With a proud confidence and an admission that he doesn't know all of the facts, Hammer freely presents his solution to the Obamacare debate. Going to prison, where everyone gets free healthcare courtesy of the taxpayer, may not be the solution you had in mind but hey, sometimes we have to make sacrifices. If it takes going to jail on a DUI charge to get free ointment for a rash on your leg, then so be it.

When Hammer explains how the D.A.R.E. program actually led him to drugs, you find he's got a twisted - but fun - way of being able to rationalize and explain pretty much anything. The reason he's not rich and famous is because of his dad, who selfishly offered Hammer constant support and never left his family high and dry (Hammer vows not to make the same mistake with his sons). He wants to try heroin because he'd love to know how to play guitar. His alcoholism is the reason he's able to stay so trim and fit. And soda, not global warming, is the reason polar bears are melting.

And yes, you read that last sentence correctly.

As laid back as Hammer is, there are a few things that get under his skin, namely people who feel the incessant need to explain their tattoos (regardless of whether or not anyone asked them), the whole concept of giving flowers (unless you're breaking up with someone), and people who want to talk to him about his cute dog.

And speaking of pets, Hammer found a way to make sex with cats funny. I won't go into it, but suffice it to say "It's like a sock that eats" is one of the funniest lines I've heard in a while. It's up to you to listen to the track on your own to get the full context.

If you're ever looking for a reason (Or two. Or three.) to drink and drive, Hammer is the man for you. He'll explain to you how drinking and driving could save lives and suggests getting behind the wheel when you're tipsy wouldn't have such a bad rep if, instead of crashing into upstanding citizens, more drunk drivers would aim for rapists.

The album ends with a special (secret) message (followed by one last joke for the road) encouraging the listener to share the project with friends. If you enjoyed Almost Clean let people know, and share it, at any price to Hammer (and his record label). Since I did enjoy the CD, I've decided to take Hammer up on his deal and spread the word.

I enjoyed this album and I think you will, too. 


There. Word officially spread. Now forward this review to everyone you know who enjoys laughing and encourage them to check out Adam Hammer. He'll take it from there.

***

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Alpocalypse"


It's been five years since "Weird Al" Yankovic's last full-length album. Five long years. And for someone who's a huge fan of Al and his music, that's four years and 11 months too long. A lot's happened since 2006 and it seems the music scene has re-invented itself at least a dozen times over. For someone like Yankovic who has always had his finger on the pulse of pop culture, he has no problem keeping up. With the recent release of The Lonely Island's new CD, one might be tempted to assume there isn't enough room for two comedy music acts to thrive. But we all know what happens when you assume: Al makes an ass out of you, me, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, B.O.B., Bruno Mars, and T.I.

Alpocalypse follows a familiar Yankovic-ian formula whereas the track listing alternates between parodies and completely original songs. To this day it intrigues me to find people who have no idea Yankovic isn't just some guys who changes the words to popular songs. He's also an extremely talented songwriter and musician whose chops literally span every musical genre conceivable. This time around includes a nod to The Doors mixed with America's penchant for online classified ads ("Craigslist") and a White Stripes-inspired ode to the greatest bespectacled Match Game regular ever to don a neckerchief ("CNR").

One of my favorite songs on the album is "If That Isn't Love," a list of examples pointing out how much Yankovic adores the object of his affection set to a radio-friendly Hanson-esque Adult Contemporary track. Less-than-flattering love songs have always been one of Yankovic's strong suits and is often when he's at his funniest. This time around is no different.
"And if you cut the cheese then maybe I'll wink and say the dog's to blame

And I make sure to call you 'baby' every time I forget your name


I'll even tell ya girl when you start lookin' fat

'Cuz all your so-called friends will probably neglect to mention that


And if that isn't love...I don't know what love is." 

Of course, it's the parodies that made Yankovic famous and he doesn't disappoint. He and his band deserve credit not only for perfectly capturing the essence and musicianship of each twisted rendition, but also for injecting each one with a fresh sense of fun. The first track on the album, "Perform This Way", puts Lady Gaga's less-then-conventional fashion sense under a microscope and "TMZ" focuses on Harvey Levin and his pointless gang of legalized stalkers all to the tune of Taylor Swift's "You Belong To Me." "Another Tattoo" is the smile-inducing tale of a man obsessed with body art that will forever change your perception of the original B.o.B/Bruno Mars collaboration.

It wouldn't be a "Weird Al" Yankovic album without another polka medley featuring your favorite - or perhaps least-favorite - songs that have been played to death on the radio set to a rousing polka party beat. You've never heard Katy Perry so enjoyable, Owl City so upbeat, Pink so not-angry, and Justin Bieber so...um...accordian-y.

For fans of Yankovic, not all of the songs on Alpocalypse are new. Five of the 12 tracks on the album were released as part of an EP, Internet Leaks, that came out back in 2009. If I had a complaint about this new project, the fact that I already bought nearly half of the songs two years ago would be it. Because I'm a fan - and knowing it may very well be another five years before new music rolls around again - I would have preferred if the EP could have been left as its own entity, a mini-project appetizer to tide us over, before Al came out with the main course chock-full of brand new songs I hadn't heard before.

That being said, Alpocalypse is another solid release from Yankovic and it's an understatement to say that I love it. I must admit that hearing the "old" songs sandwiched in with the new ones brings a welcome freshness to each of them. Whether you've been a lifelong fan or are just beginning to dabble in his music, there are a lot of laughs to be found here that don't get old with repeated listenings. I mean, come on, he actually made a Lady Gaga song listenable. If that's not proof of musical genius, I don't know what is.

***

Darren Frost's "Dead Inside"


Some comics have a reputation for being loud when they perform. Sam Kinison. Lewis Black.

Others are known for their soft-spoken approach. Steven Wright. Todd Barry.

On his DVD Dead Inside, Darren Frost works in both modes:

  1. A hushed whisper that draws in the crowd, forcing them to lean in to experience the nuggets of discovery being shared

  2. A full-on scream


Personally, I prefer the former. Maybe it's because I tend to relate to people when they play to where the audience is, like someone getting on their knees to play with their son or daughter on their level, as opposed to being shouted at from above, often with little to no provocation. Or, perhaps it's just because of the simple fact it seems Frost did little to no screaming during the sound check and as a result during the performance the microphone distorts as soon as he raises the decibel level.

Either way, there's no doubt who's in charge as soon as Frost takes to the stage. He commands attention from the first moment and he steers the boat full steam ahead for the next hour without once having to stop and catch his breath.

Frost and his audience are Canadian and although a small handful of the references went over this uncultured American's head, for the most part I was with him every step of the way. Frost takes a sinister pleasure in shocking the audience. He's not here solely to entertain the crowd, but also to entertain himself, and he thrives on making the audience squirm. Frost has designed his own comedic funhouse and he loves watching you make your way through the darkened hallways as he ducks behind a corner, waiting to jump at you when you least expect it. The crowd's reactions only add fuel to his pyre.

This is comedy, though, and Dead Inside is not without its moments of genuine laughter. The laughs sometimes come at the expense of the audience's comfort (he has a strong bit about a tragic bus decapitation accident), but laughs are laughs and if there's one mantra that Frost clings to, it's the fact that comedy is not pretty.

In fact, the project opens with Frost addressing his unconventional physical appearance. He's well aware of how he comes across and he wisely beats us to the punch. Not only does it cut off any would-be hecklers at the pass, it also lets us know that Frost isn't afraid to view himself through the same critical kaleidoscope he views the rest of the world. He's just as hard on himself as he is on everything else. Which, of course, allows him to unleash both barrels.

As much as Frost insists he is a monster (the cover art has him looking his creepiest with the shadowed eyes and the contrast bumped up to its most unflattering), as much as he constantly refers to himself as an "X-rated comic," underneath it all is a human being. He's a regular guy who would drive an hour for the best chicken wings he's ever tasted, despite the seedy reputation of the restaurant's owner. If you look past the exterior and listen to what he's saying (or, sometimes, screaming), you can't help but pick up on the fact that he's a devoted husband who genuinely gets a kick out of his wife and a caring dad who adores his kids.

That may not be the brush with which Frost chooses to paint himself, but there's no denying the subtext, and there's no getting past my favorite moment of the project. Early on, Frost has chosen a man in the audience sitting close to the stage and given him a less-than-flattering nickname. Throughout the entire hour, Frost directs his comedy at him, to him, and for him, constantly referring to him by his newly-sired pseudonym. I've seen comics choose someone in the audience to use as a punching bag throughout their show and then give them a quick thank-you at the end of the show, but I've never seen it done quite as satisfyingly redemptive as Frost.

Beneath the yelling, the ranting and raving, the intimidating package and the scary presentation of it all, there is genuine heart. That's hard to find today, not just in comedy, but anywhere. Frost has taken someone Dead Inside and used him to bring life and laughter.

***

Dead Inside is available at Darren Frost's website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Andrew Rivers & Adam Norwest: "Future Sex/Love Jokes"

Compilation albums can be tricky to navigate. You need to make sure the comedians who appear on the album are of equal caliber and complement each other. Yes, it's important that the comedians are funny, but the producer of the album/tour/show also has to keep in mind the overall vibe of the show. One comic in the wrong place can throw a monkey wrench in the entire show. When it works (The Comedians of Comedy) it works. And when it doesn't, it can make for a very uneven project (Pick a Comic Relief album, any Comic Relief album). Unfortunately, Future Sex/Love Jokes falls into the latter category. In this case, the comics are so unbalanced, there's little either of them can do to right the ship.

The album begins with a set from Andrew Rivers. Actually, the album begins with some of the most ear-piercing screaming your poor ears will ever be subjected to. The production quality on the CD is very poor, and the audience's microphones are way too hot. There are three or four women in the audience who are the kind of people you instantly hate as soon as they make their presence known in the club. They are determined to make their presence known and they scream at the top of their lungs any time there's a lull. And there are a good number of lulls for them to fill. Every time they screech their banshee-from-hell wails, the audio on the CD distorts horribly as if it were recorded on a hand-held tape recorder from 1987. As I mentioned earlier, their levels are much, much louder than they need to be. So much so, my listening experience was pretty much ruined in the first 5 minutes. I had to set my iPod's volume level to about 45% just to compensate, and the sound still distorted every time they took it upon themselves to whoop it up. And they whoop it up throughout the entire album.

When I listen to CDs for review, as a rule of thumb I listen at least three times. In all honesty I absolutely dreaded the idea of listening even a second time to this album just because the production value was so poor. Let this be a lesson to all up-and-coming comedians: I know you want to have a CD really badly and feel you need a CD to sell at your shows to help cut your costs, and if you only had a CD you could put it up on iTunes and make a buttload of money, but remember, if you're not at the point where you can afford to put out a project that doesn't give the listener an ear-splitting headache, then be patient. Wait it out.

Also, if you invite your friends to your CD recording so you can ensure you'll have a good crowd, remind them they don't have to scream and yell at everything you say. Despite what they may think, it doesn't make for a better experience and it doesn't make you sound funnier. It just makes me hate your loudmouthed screechy friends. I know I should be focusing on the comedy content and not on the production or the audience, but I can't not mention it; it really is that much of a distraction. I mean, seriously, I've already written 550 words and I still haven't gotten to the comedy.

That's how much it matters that you put out a quality project.

As I mentioned in the outset, making sure the comics on a double-billed CD are equally matched is of the utmost importance. I dabble in drawing doodles in my free time. I usually doodle celebrities from photos in magazines or on the internet. Sometimes I do a pretty good job and sometimes I don't. I have a few that I'm pretty proud of, but overall, I'm just OK. I think it's important to recognize your own limitations, which is why I call them "doodles" and not "caricatures." As good as I may think some of them have turned out, I also know that if you sat me down beside someone like Tom Richmond and told us to draw the same celebrity, he would blow me out of the water. It wouldn't even be close, and I freely admit it. And, because he is so talented, so seasoned, so....so good at what he does and - it doesn't hurt my feelings to say it - I'm not, his drawing is going to look even better sitting next to my amateurish scribbles. And, naturally, mine will pale in comparison even more sitting next to his.

I said all of that to bring me around to my original point: when you put two people doing the same thing side-by-side, one after the other, people are naturally going to start to compare and contrast, so unless you're setting out to intentionally make someone look good and someone look bad, be careful.

In the case of Future Sex/Love Jokes, Andrew Rivers comes up short. He hasn't yet found his voice and decided who he wants to be as a comedian. Does he want to be the smart cocky guy who calls out Hooters girls for being stupid? Or does he honestly want us to believe he's so naive he went to a barber shop thinking it was a place to receive oral sex simply because the word "Head" was in its name? In this case, Rivers tries to do both, and it ends up making for an uneven set.

Adam Norwest, on the other hand, is the one to keep an eye on. His anecdotes are based on scenarios people can relate to. His unhappiness with his physical presence includes his desire to be bigger, stronger, and just...as he puts it - to look like a man. "I wanna be strong," Norwest pines, "I don't wanna fight, I just wanna make it easier to get ice cream out of the container. Right now I have to leave it on the counter for an hour until it's soft like these precious arms."

Norwest is at his most entertaining when he is at his most vulnerable, whether he's discussing his insecurities with his body image, trying to deal with driving a car filled with drunks, or his conversations with his girlfriend about The Future. I especially enjoyed Norwest's bit on the Spanx infomercial, which includes testimonials from women who claim to have lost six inches. His reaction is brilliantly simple: "You didn't lose it...You moved it."

The album ends, inexplicably so, with a single track from Jubal Flagg. His set is decent enough, but I still haven't completely figured out why it's here. Besides a small mention in the liner notes, Flagg doesn't appear on any of the album packaging.

As an entire album, I can't recommend Future Sex/Love Jokes. Fortunately, iTunes lets you download individual tracks and in this case, with Adam Norwest standing out the way he does, that's the way to go.

***

Future Sex/Love Jokes is available from Life Row

Norm MacDonald's "Me Doing Standup"


It's been far too long since we've seen Norm MacDonald. True, now he has a new TV show on Comedy Central and he's just released a new album, Me Doing StandUp , but besides the random appearance on a celebrity roast or Adam Sandler movie, I've missed Norm. And Standup is a great example of just why he's been missed.

This is MacDonald at his best, and he never misses a beat. Part incredulous bystander trying to process everything life throws his way and part out-of-touch old guy telling tales of how things used to be, MacDonald seamlessly transitions between the two characters.

MacDonald shines when he takes a simple common phrase like someone "waging a battle against cancer" or a "heart attack" or "gay pride" and veers into their literal meaning. We talk about people battling cancer but is it really a battle as much as it is someone in a bed plugged to an IV? A heart attack becomes literally that: Your heart attacking and trying to kill you. And yes, a parent may love and support their homosexual son, but MacDonald hilariously explains why "pride" may not be the best choice of words.

Sure, MacDonald is reading too literally into the words but that's exactly where he mines some of his best comedy. When someone told him his deceased father was "in a better place," MacDonald begged to differ. "He's on the floor. Dead. Earlier he was alive in the bed...I'm no physician but I think that's the better place over there."

When it comes to storytelling, there's no one else quite like MacDonald who often finds himself chuckling at the absurdity of what he's describing as if he's hearing the material for the first time. His approach is unassuming and modest and his delivery comes across like he's trying to remember just how everything went down. Even the smallest details, like his deliberate pronunciation of the word "a" in not-totally-grammatically-correct phrases like "eat a egg" or "half a hour" pack a huge laugh.

Which brings me to another wonderful aspect of MacDonald's comedy: Explaining things. It's fascinating to hear not only what he believes, but also the logic that backs his claims like AA isn't truly anonymous, alcoholism is the best disease ever, and mathematically speaking, Tiger Woods is the most faithful man who ever lived.

MacDonald has a real flair for tackling subjects that may at first seem too heavy to make good comedic material. Not only does he find the funny in them, but he does it with what appears to be relative ease. It isn't until after the bit is over that you realize, "Wow...he just talked about the best way to abduct and murder a woman for the last seven minutes and it was hilarious." I know it sounds bad when it's worded like that , but trust me, he somehow manages to pull it off.

Of course, you can't talk about Norm MacDonald and women getting murdered without touching on O.J. Simpson, the topic that - depending on who tells the story - was responsible for MacDonald's dismissal from Saturday Night Live. In the final track, we get to O.J. and it may surprise you to find MacDonald has gained sympathy for him. Naturally, the humor lies in why Norm has changed his tune.

This project is one of the most consistently-funny comedy albums I've heard and there are no tracks that get skipped over even after multiple listenings. Me Doing StandUp  is solid proof of why Norm MacDonald is one of the funniest guys working today. I just hope we don't have to wait too long before we get "Me Doing Standup Again."

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