Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Top 10 Comedy Albums of 2011

I realize I'm a little late to the Best-of-'11 party, but at the end of this past year I fell a bit behind in my comedy listening and I wanted to catch up to make sure I didn't miss anything before I compiled my final list.

Of course, when I say "Top 10" it really just means "my personal favorites." This is by no means the be-all end-all definitive list, and I don't pretend that my picks are the only valid picks. There will be some albums on my list that don't appear on anyone else's and I'm sure there will be some who are on other lists that didn't make mine. I'm totally fine with that. I had a heck of a time narrowing down the field as there really were a ton of great albums that came out in 2011. To say it was a great year for comedy would be a severe understatement.

Of all the albums that came out last year, I narrowed them down to a list of 47, and then began re-listening. Some projects I haven't listened to since I wrote my review at the beginning of the year and I didn't want to pull an Academy Award stunt where only the ones that came out in December got chosen since they were the freshest in my mind. After that, I narrowed down the field to 18 and then started the process all over again. Sure, it may sound like a lot of work for a simple Top 10 list, but because so many of the projects that came out were so freakin' funny, I really wanted to make sure I gave them all their fair shot and did it right.

As you browse, you'll find that clicking on the comedian's name will take you to my full review of their project; clicking on the album title will take you to the Amazon page where you can pick up a copy. Enjoy!

Ed

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COMEDY REVIEWS' TOP 10 COMEDY ALBUMS OF 2011



  • 10. COLLIN MOULTON - CHICKEN STUPIDI went into Chicken Stupid not knowing what to expect and by the end of the first track I was already thrilled to be along for the ride. This CD is exactly what I hope every album will be when I sit down to listen: Comedy done just right.

  • 9. JOHNNY BEEHNER - TINY WIENERBeehner’s delivery is original; his authoritative and confident voice booms like an ad executive from Larry Tate’s office and gives weight to his stories. Often times, though, what he’s talking about is the complete polar opposite of board room professionalism. Imagine Don Draper in an important pitch meeting recounting a Taco Bell drive-thru prank or trying to cope with a hard-to-reach pimple and you’ll have an idea of what’s going on here.

  • 8. DOUG BENSON - POTTY MOUTHThe bottom line is, this CD is funny. I've got nothing but good things to say about this one and I couldn't be happier about it. I guess that’s what happens when someone as talented and skilled as Benson takes to the stage.

  • 7. RORY SCOVEL - DILATIONThis project is so incredible, it’s actually really tricky to approach for a review. Each track covers so much ground, it’s hard to decide what to focus on and what to leave for you to discover on your own. Not that I’m complaining. If the fact that there’s too much good stuff to rave about in one sitting is the only downside to the CD, then that’s not actually a downside at all.

  • 6. NATASHA LEGGERO - COKE MONEYLeggero’s new album contains a lot of fun surprises, and if you only know her from her stint as a judge on Last Comic Standing then you’re in for a real treat. She is a highly-skilled comic whose material you’ll soon find yourself quoting to your friends. Leggero accomplished what she set out to do: she made me laugh.

  • 5. NORM MACDONALD - ME DOING STANDUPIt’s been far too long since we’ve seen Norm MacDonald 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.

  • 4. MIKE BIRBIGLIA - SLEEPWALK WITH ME LIVE This isn’t just a standard collection of jokes, moving from one topic to another. Step back and take another look. There’s real storytelling going on here. There is structure, a plotline, and form. There are no throwaway vignettes or rabbit trailS. Everything serves a common purpose: to defy his father’s advice of not telling anyone anything and reveal to the world his struggle with relationships, family ties, and a rare sleeping disorder that sent him crashing Hulk-style through a second-story hotel window.

  • 3. LAVELL CRAWFORD - CAN A BROTHER GET SOME LOVE?Let’s not beat around the bush here: This album had me laughing out loud. A lot. Non-stop. From start to finish. I laughed and laughed and laughed and then I laughed some more. This is one of those albums that actually leaves you feeling better for listening to it; one that guarantees whether you put it on and listen to it with a group of friends or by yourself, you’ll have a good time.

  • 2. PATTON OSWALT - FINEST HOURI love Oswalt’s comedy because his humor is one that lingers. I found myself laughing once when I would hear Oswalt mutter phrases like “I want all the ham” and then a second, third, fourth, and even fifth time as I replayed it over and over in my head. This is definitely an album that requires repeated listenings so you can go back and hear what you missed while you were laughing your head off. Despite the fact all of Oswalt’s previous CDs have been nothing short of amazing, the title of this newest outing could not be any more appropriate. Each Oswalt CD has been the epitome of what stand-up comedy can — and should – be but this time around is it.

  • 1. LOUIS C.K. - HILARIOUSIf you’re going to call your album Hilarious, then let’s face it: it better be. There is nothing – nothing - not funny about this album. It’s an amazing project and should only cement Louis C.K.’s standing as one of the funniest, most-consistent,  hardest-working comedians out there today. Of all the possible titles for this album, Hilarious was the right way to go.

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"But Ed," you may be thinking to yourself, "Those are all great albums, but wouldn't ya know it, I've already purchased all of those and added them to my collection. Are there more albums that almost made the list that you recommend?"


And to that, I say, "Read on."


HONORABLE MENTION


  • WYATT CENAC - COMEDY PERSONI walked away from this album feeling very satisfied. Not because this is over an hour of smart and well thought-out laughs. Not because I finally learned how the Tea Party demographic came to be and not because I can’t get the whole Rosa-Parks-sitting-in-the-wrong-seat-on-an-airplane quandary out of my head. I felt satisfied simply because I went in looking forward to laugh and Cenac did not disappoint.

  • PETE HOLMES - IMPREGNATED WITH WONDERIf I had to sum up in one word the overall feel of this CD, it would be joy. You walk away feeling better for having listened. Holmes’s comedy comes from a place of absolute purity. There’s not a mean-spirited bone in his body and even when he works himself into an excited frenzy it’s done with a smile. Trust me on this one. You’re gonna have a blast.

  • DAVID HUNTSBERGER - HUMANITISHuntsberger proves you don’t need a gimmick to get huge laughs. He’s like a professor of comedy, standing in front of the class with one of those huge wooden pointer sticks, only instead of using it to point out parts of a map or areas of the human skeleton, Huntsberger simply points at life with a  ”Hey, look at that” delivery. And he kills.

  • MARC MARON - THIS HAS TO BE FUNNYOne of the things I love most about Maron’s comedy is his wonderfully unique use of the English language. He has concocted some amazing phrases that I have already stolen and added to my own Stephenie Meyer-level repertoire. My cat used to sit on my belly and “knead my stomach.” Not anymore. Now she’s “makin’ muffins.” A hipster in a fedora with a handlebar mustache used to be described simply as “a dork.” Now he “looks like he was interrupted during a shave in the mid-1850s and had to dress quickly as he ran through a time tunnel.” Man, I love that. 

  • THE SKLAR BROTHERS - HENDERSONS AND DAUGHTERSThe Sklars don’t only bring big funny when they’re in the skin of other characters, they also take on topics as themselves with the skill of a well-seasoned news team, albeit a team that prefers to report on Margaret Cho as Mr. Miyagi in a Karate Kid remake or what racist hats would look like. Simply put, this is an amazing project packed with tons of laughs. There are no “Let’s skip this one” tracks to be found and the humor doesn't diminish an iota with repeated listenings. 

  • AUGGIE SMITH - SMELL THE THUNDERI like Auggie Smith. I like the fact that he doesn’t waste any time and gets right down to business. He takes to the stage and immediately digs in, setting his sites on The South and…well…he doesn’t exactly blame them for the BP oil spill but he makes a heck of a case for not feeling bad for the people of Alabama who are seeking help. And that’s just in the first three minutes. I love it.

  • DANIEL TOSH - HAPPY THOUGHTSMy expectations going in to Happy Thoughts were pretty high, I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of Tosh’s past two releases as well as his TV show, Tosh.0. I tried not to get myself too hyped up about this new project, as I felt I was setting myself up for disappointment. I knew there was no way it could be as funny as I wished it would be. I was wrong. As high as my expectations were, Tosh blew them away. 

  • REGGIE WATTS - LIVE AT THIRD MAN RECORDSFans of Reggie Watts, the one-man improvisational music-looping genius, know what to expect when they go see him perform live. To put it simply, they expect everything and Watts never disappoints. Folks unfamiliar with his scattered off-the-wall-ness are in for an experience they won’t soon forget and on this EP you get the sense that’s exactly the people Watts is aiming for. It’s easier to throw the audience for a loop – or in this case loops – when they don’t know they’re about to be thrown.

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