Friday, February 3, 2012

Rich Vos's "Still Empty Inside"

Each trip to a comedy club comes with a sense of excited expectation. You know what you hope will happen -- maybe one of your friends will get called out and put in his place, you'll hear solid jokes by a seasoned comic, and mostly, you'll laugh a lot -- but there's never a guarantee that's what you'll get.

Unless you're going to see Rich Vos.

In that case, it's pretty much a sure thing that you're in for a good time and his album Still Empty Inside  is no exception.

Vos is a no-nonsense comedian who has no time for run-of-the-mill niceties. Instead of starting off singing the praises of the two opening comics, he lists off people he just doesn't like and those two are at the top of the roster. Vos never gives a reason for how he feels, simply stating, "I don't like 'em" and the vagueness of his disdain only makes it funnier.

It's easy to feel relaxed around Vos. He delivers his material with the laid-back energy of a guy settled into a recliner watching The Golf Channel on a Sunday afternoon. Keep in mind, I'm not implying his comedy is slow-paced or boring. Quite the opposite. Vos keeps the crowd entertained and delivers one solid laugh after another.

His approach is one of easy confidence and his crowd work is impressive. Whether Vos is dealing with..well...not hecklers per se, but...over-enthusiastic audience members who don't understand they aren't there to add to the festivities or simply commenting on a haircut ("You look like a Roman nickel") or musing about the appropriateness of bringing one's unemotional 16-year-old to a comedy show, Vos remains in charge, never once losing his footing no matter how deep into the waters he ventures.

That very same truthful up-frontness (Don't look it up. You know what I mean) that works so well when Vos is mingling with the crowd is just as effective when he is working with his own material. He's easily sidetracked by himself, one story hilariously reminding him of another, but no matter how far he seems to stray he always finds his mark and picks up right where he left off. A one-liner about what his wife and Jackie Chan have in common leads into a heated interaction with the audience and ends up in Edmonton, Canada where Vos finds himself in a cow milk fight with his father-in-law gone awry. No mater where his stories may lead, there's always genuine laughter to be found.

When Vos is onstage, the hard truth is always prevalent. He's completely honest about his three daughters. Yes, he does have a favorite (the eldest) and a least favorite (the youngest) and when it comes to critiquing the artwork of his toddler, he doesn't mince words ("You're a scribbler.")

If Vos is willing to be so up-front with us about his family, then it would be foolish to assume he'd be any less frank when it comes to such PC lightning rods as the handicapped ("I'm a fan of the cripple"), racial relations (ratting out the reaction of the white people in the crowd after telling a black joke), and the mentally unstable (if you're going to commit suicide, at least have the courtesy to wait until your friends are present so Vos isn't blamed for murder).

Despite the fact Vos touches on these -- and other -- tough topics, it should be noted he isn't pushing the envelope merely for the sake of pushing the envelope. He's just passing on one story after another and no matter how frank he's being, he's also being brutally funny. From his rabbit fur hoodie to his loose basketball shorts exploits with the likes of characters named Dirk and Dickie, Vos offers up a full platter of consistent humor.

For a guy who claims to be so empty inside, he's got a real skill for leaving the rest of us feeling full with laughter.


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