To say this album went completely over my head would be a bit of an understatement. Although I was familiar with Rick Shapiro as a comic I had never heard his material (if that makes sense) and ... WOW ... Catalyst for Change was a helluvan introduction.
A more appropriate title for this project might be "Rick Shapiro Yells About Nothing While People Get Up And Walk Out." That's pretty much all I took away from it because Shapiro's rants, rapid-fire as they may be, don't really have a lot of substance. For a guy whose uses as many words-per-minute as he does, he isn't saying much. And for a guy whose point is somewhat vague and ... well ... missing ... he sure is passionate.
When Shapiro first took the stage he sounded a bit like Marc Maron doing an impression of George Carlin but as I listened, I thought to myself, "Oh wait ... no ... he's not anything like those guys." I was reminded of an angry alcoholic roommate I had when I was living in California. He would spend hours ranting and raving, distracting himself and wandering from his original point and by the time he finally passed out, I still had no idea what he was angry at. All I knew was he was angry about... um... something.
Such is the case with Shapiro. He starts off angry and yelling, a master of doublespeak, and pretty much stays at that pace the rest of the way through. His tirades are fast-paced and serpentine, winding back on itself and more often than not laced with contradictions (So wait...you DO like that? Because a minute ago you called people who liked that a bunch of faggots). His ravings are peppered with F-bombs that carry all the gravitas of a child who uses F-bombs because he doesn't have anything funny to say but thinks the other kids will gasp and laugh for the simple fact that he's screaming and dropping F-bombs on the playground.
The audience laughs but it's not the spontaneous laughter of a crowd responding to something hilarious that took them by surprise. It's the reserved nervous laughter you might hear on Thanksgiving Day if Dad showed up drunk holding a loaded pistol to your sister's neck. It's not "Hey, here are some jokes for you. Enjoy!" Instead, it's "You motherfuckers better laugh at everything I say or this bitch gets it!! Laugh, you sons of bitches, LAUGH!"
Frankly, I'm surprised more people didn't walk out. There are a number of times when Shapiro confesses things aren't going well. Instead of doing it apologetically or embarrassed, he nonchalantly admits with a shrug, "I forget how that one ends." When he says "I guess that one needs an ending" or "I really should add a punchline there" he does so as a careless aside that suggests, "What the hell do I care. I already got your money. Assholes."
I honestly believe Shapiro thinks he's saying something, but I'm still not quite sure what that something is. Looking back at the album's track listing is somewhat perplexing. "He talked about that?" I find myself saying to myself, "I don't remember him talking about anything." In fact, if you just scream the following words angrily as fast as you can, you'll have saved yourself the hour of actually having to sit through this aural assault.
- Fuck! What the fuck?!
- Bull shit!
- Why aren't you laughing?
When all is said and done, if we wanted to see a crazy dude foaming at the mouth screaming about nothing, we could just go down to the corner where that dude with a megaphone screams at passersby. We would have gotten just as much out of it, and there's no two-drink minimum.