Listening to the new project from Andrés du Bouchet reminded me of the first time I watched Pulp Fiction. I was living in the middle of the Mojave Desert in 1994 and had to drive over an hour to get to the nearest showing of Tarantino's groundbreaking film. I went with my dad and afterward we were so blown away by what we had seen, we were rendered speechless on the entire drive home, both of us lost deep in thought as we replayed over and over in our heads what we had just been through. At the end of the night we found ourselves in a Denny's, dissecting and discussing the events that had unfolded over a pot of coffee.
I was the first one in my circle of friends to see the film and I realized as I tried to express to them how good it was, I was having a hard time putting everything I experienced during the film into words. With its snappy dialogue, constant waves of building suspense, and its timeline-hopping lack of linear storytelling, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. And I loved every minute of it. As I answered (or attempted to answer) my friends' queries of "How was it?" I found I wasn't doing the film justice.
And that's also what I felt after experiencing the incredibly brilliant Naked Trampoline Hamlet. I don't know how I'm going to impress upon you how amazing it is, but I'm sure gonna try. I probably don't need to say this project is unlike any comedy album I've ever heard and as someone who is constantly on the lookout for fresh, new, and unique approaches to the art of stand-up, to say du Bouchet is exactly what I was hoping to stumble upon without really knowing what it was I was hoping to stumble upon is a fair statement.
Because NTH throws away the outline of what a comedy album should be, prepare yourself to spend an hour with a guy who isn't going to do anything you expect him to do. Gone are the simple set-up/punchline combinations, the obvious answers to old jokes, and the idea that a comedian can't be his own warm-up act.
du Bouchet is a captivating performer, and a performer is exactly what he is. To refer to him only as a comic is to take away from everything that is happening on the stage. And trust me...there's is a lot happening here.
The brilliance of what du Bouchet has constructed lies in the fact that he hasn't merely written an evening's worth of well-crafted jokes. It's more accurate to say that what unfolds before our eyes (or ears, in this case) is a full-on six-act play. Each segment of the show has its own distinct style, feel, tone, and theme. du Bouchet tackles and embodies the various narrators of each track with the flawless, committed skill of a classically trained actor. Whether he's playing the role of an eager comedian whose delivery is overtaken by the excited machismo of the ultimate alpha male specimen or rattling off one idea for a new reality show after another (And another. And another. And another), du Bouchet is the epitome of dedicating himself to a role and working hard to make it click.
The CD opens with the crowd being warmed up by Danny Yeahyeah, a du Bouchet creation that tests the patience of the audience (and the listener) to such extremes, the payoff comes in laughter that is equally proportional to the utter ridiculousness to which the audience is subjected. du Bouchet gives new definition to the phrase "crowd work" and literally makes the crowd work for their laughter.
Have you ever seen that clip from Family Guy where the mother (Lois) is lying in bed and baby Stewie approaches, craving attention? It's a brilliant scene and for a minute straight, nothing in the frame moves except for Stewie's mouth as he does nothing but call out her name. "Lois. Lois. Lois. Lois. Lois. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy..." It's the classic gag of humor through repetition. It's funny, then the humor sort of wanes, and then by the sheer act of being perpetually repeated it becomes funny once again. du Bouchet takes that concept, scrunches it into a ball, and smashes Seth MacFarlane in the nuts with it. THIS is how it's done. Have a seat and allow du Bouchet to introduce to you a little something called The Yeah Yeah Game. You ain't seen nothing yet.
And, of course, just when you think you have it all figured out ("Oh, OK, du Bouchet is this kind of comic..."), the rug is pulled out from under your feet and you find yourself in the midst of a brand-new approach. You think you know who this guy is, and who he is going to be, but seriously...you don't.
The second act is probably the closest du Bouchet comes to what you may expect from a stand-up comedian but although he begins with standard fare like lawyer and knock-knock jokes, there's no way you could ever be prepared for the punchlines. Even when you start to feel comfortable and think you've got everything figured out...you guessed it. Ya don't.
Even though you know -- you know! -- du Bouchet is going to present you with some of the oldest jokes and riddles in the book and swap out the punchlines for something crazy, you know he's just going to say something random and off the wall, you still end up caught by surprise, trying to regain your footing by how off-balance and truly random things get.
On the album's title track du Bouchet calls together a meeting of thespians for a very specific re-creation of a classic dramatic work. du Bouchet's voice carries nicely, projecting with the stately resonance of a herald from Medieval Times mixed with the misguided pomposity of an enthusiast from your local Renaissance Fair.
As the album continues on, we really begin to see that not only does du Bouchet have a real knack for comedy, he's also extremely gifted at picking and choosing his words, giving everything he says a feel of very real intentionality (I don't know if that's a word, but I think you know what I mean, and it's exactly the word I'm looking for. So there). Never before has comedy felt so highbrow and sophisticated while at the same time infused with intentional mispronunciation, colorful metaphors, and the perfect poetic description regarding the unsettling distance between Maggie Gyllenhaal's eyes.
With his recitation of some of the more notable non-fiction books on the mating habits of finches (nope, I'm not lying) and his recounting of a special evening he shared with David Hasselhoff in which it seems he's challenged himself to see how off-topic he can get and still wrap things up, du Bouchet boldly leads you into a new realm of comedy. It's a place where the laughs come not in the form of punchlines but in the structure of what it being shared. It's a place where quitters are not tolerated, helium is regarded as the noblest of elements, and Joey Fatone never sleeps with anyone more than twice.
If you dare accept this invitation to such uncharted comedy territory you will be rewarded handsomely. That reward comes in the form of laughter, and du Bouchet is a very generous benefactor.