Whenever you watch a TV show or movie where the good guys are chasing a serial killer, there's always a scene where the lead detective is trying to piece together clues, staring at an over-sized bulletin board plastered full of newspaper clippings, photographs, index cards, and other assorted bits of information. I imagine that wall is what it looks like inside of Mo Mandel's head. There's an overwhelming number of topics he wants to touch on during his stand up set, and on his album The M Word, he manages to do just that. Without it ever coming across as information overload, Mandel smoothly moves from one topic to the next. He's a moving target, never staying in one place long enough to give you time to feel disenchanted.
If you prefer your comedians to play offense rather than defense, then Mandel is the comic for you. He comes at the crowd, delivering his material with energetic confidence. As he projects, his gruff voice is reminiscent of a Dana Gould character. Rest assured, Mandel is no fictionalization. He's straight forward and up-front, describing himself as "kind of in between a Jew and a guy who drives by in a truck and yells "Jew."" His heritage is the source for a lot of his material, but Gentiles can rest assured he does not alienate. There's no Jackie Mason-esque kvetching here. Mandel is humorous and relatable and never exclusive.
There's not a hot-button issue Mandel is afraid to touch and he is unapologetic of his outlook, whether it's on the race issue ("Jews were slaves 2,000 years before blacks were slaves. I mean I get it, you guys are late to things..."), relationships ("I'm a little tired...I just started dating this girl...and I am worn out...from acting fake"), and immigration ("I feel like Mexican people have a right to come to this country...I just do not think they should be allowed to bring their music with them").
As much as I enjoyed some of the bits here (my favorites included tales about meth labs in his hometown and his childhood struggle with bed-wetting), there were others I didn't connect with as strongly. When you're covering the amount of territory Mandel does, that's probably to be expected. Because he moves quickly from one topic to the next, the lulls aren't lulls for very long before things are up and moving once again.
Mandel enjoys pushing the envelope and he does it in a way where you don't feel like you're being pushed. He's edgy and sometimes confrontational without coming across as too in-your-face or offensively mean-spirited. He's honest and open, and that gives him license to speak freely.
Although I didn't find this project to be wall-to-wall belly laughs, I did enjoy my time spent with Mandel and there are some genuinely funny moments waiting to be discovered. The M Word is a nice representation of Mandel and, when all is said and done, is still pretty "mm mm good."