Listening to the new album from Nicholas Anthony, Professional Child, one can't help but have a good time. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious, putting me in mind of Chester, the little dog from the old Looney Tunes shorts who followed around the large bulldog, bouncing up and down, asking "Whaddya wanna do today, Spike?" His spirited loyalty and seemingly endless excitement made him an instantly likable character and Anthony is no different.
From the moment he takes the stage things are off and running at top speed. Anthony barely pauses for a breath when he greets the crowd: "Good evening, my name's Nick and I like tall women because they get more naked, who's with me?"
And we're off.
From there we are swept away into the whirlwind that must be Anthony's mind. There's no cohesive through-line as he jumps from topic to topic, usually without warning, as if his mouth is struggling to keep up with the thoughts that jump into his head.
Despite this sporadic approach, the album doesn't feel disjointed, confusing, or whiplash-inducing, which is a testament to Anthony's appealing stage presence. Rather than go from Point A to Point B in linear fashion, it's like we're watching TV and he has control of the remote. Fortunately, with Anthony every channel we land on is a humorous one and no matter where we stop we can rest assured that it's going to be funny. Yes, Anthony may seem a little ADHD-stricken but more importantly his performance is thoroughly enjoyable and he takes care to ensure that above all else, the audience is happy.
Anthony has a great laundry list of experiences from which to cull his material. He's the son of a long-distance trucker who knows what it's like to have all of his Christmas and birthday presents picked up at a truck stop. He's a former salesman whose entire pitch was "Come oooonnnnnn" and when a woman says she just wants him to be honest with her, well...let's just say she might wanna retract that request (His response, it should be noted, is one of my favorite moments on the album, eliciting the same laugh-out-loud reaction from me each time I heard it).
So who is Anthony? He's a fan of Jesus (but not always a fan of His fans) and can be quite competitive (just ask his 5-year-old nephew who needed to be taught the hard way to respect baseball's strike zone). He has a pretty original take on the act of vomiting ("That which is inside you is so angry it's scurrying to escape out of you") and his encounter with a woman he's dubbed "Candle Girl" (trust me, there's a great story behind her moniker) ends just where you fear it will as our hero argues with himself on just how far things should go.
Just when you think Anthony has touched on every topic under the sun - and made us laugh at it all - he shares with us the story of the time he got strep throat while in Iraq to perform for the troops. One wouldn't think strep throat would require him to drop his pants. One also wouldn't think strep throat would require him to drop his pants twice, but when it does, really, are you surprised?
At the end of the album Anthony includes some nice bonus material. One of the most enjoyable extras is the inclusion of audio of a candid dinner conversation between him and some of his friends at a restaurant. It immediately brought me back to the underrated Jon Favreau IFC television show, "Dinner for Five," as we're given a nice opportunity to play fly on the wall while we listen to a discussion that's unscripted and hilarious. It reminded me of a few late-night conversations in a diner I've shared with my own pals and I was grateful Anthony invited us along to hang out and take part.
If I had to describe this album with only one word, it would be "fun." At one point, as if catching himself off-guard, Anthony observes almost embarrassed, "Oh guys...I feel like I'm doing all the talking." It made me smile and, considering how funny he is, I'm more than willing to do all the listening. I can't help but think I'm benefiting the most from this arrangement.