Monday, June 25, 2012

Danny Bevins's "Inappropriate"

Trying to capture the new CD from Danny Bevins, Inappropriate, in a simple review may prove to be a bit difficult for my limited skills, so bear with me. He operates quickly, is always on his toes, and is a bit all over the place. There's an old saying about how hard it is to hit describe a moving target, but I won't quote that here. When it comes to describing Bevins's approach, broad descriptive strokes are ineffective. Although his material is original and all his own, at times his inflections and mannerisms bear a striking resemblance to other comedians. There were times, albeit just a handful, where it sounded like he was channeling Brian Regan, Sam Kinison, Bill Burr, or TJ Miller. 

I remember the first time someone told me they didn't care for Jim Gaffigan. I still recall exactly where I was (inside the box office at the National Comedy Theatre in Manhattan) because up to that point, I always assumed everyone was a fan (myself included). When he explained to me how Gaffigan's soft-spoken, high-pitched Voice Of The Audience was too repetitive for his taste, it was like a light bulb went on. Although the falsetto never bothered me personally, I understood how it might not be someone else's cup of comedy tea. [It's only fair to note that Gaffigan has cut back on that aspect of his comedy considerably since then.]

Bevins uses a similar technique. The differences here are two-fold:
  1. Instead of a breathy, nearly feminine, Gaffigan-esque tone, Bevins uses one that sounds remarkable like Barney Fife. I don't know whether or not it's an intentional Don Knotts impression, but it's pretty dead on.
  2. Where Gaffigan uses The Voice to play the role of a disgruntled, critical audience member, Bevins uses his Fife Tone to play the role of everyone. Whoever he happens to be talking about just also happens to sound like the single-bulleted deputy.
Whether or not you tire of this tactic will vary depending on your outlook. I bounced back and forth and actually warmed up to it as I got deeper into the album. There were a few occasions where the gimmick supplied the biggest laugh of the story.

At the onset of the album Bevins speaks in a quiet and almost timid whisper and then ramps himself up into a frenetic ball of energy. He spends the rest of the time anywhere between that vast spectrum of extremes, sometimes exploding from hushed to screaming with no hint of what's to come (you've been warned, headphone users).

Overall I enjoyed the second half of the album over the first. I preferred his conversation with the homophobic Texas cowboy more than his confrontation with the table of loud women at a bar during happy hour. His bit on Occupy Wall Street-ers and the secret power of wearing a suit brought more smiles to me than his grandfather's model work ethic or Bevins's explanation of why he is pro-choice despite the fact he was an unplanned baby. I can't pinpoint the reason why the first six tracks didn't do as much for me as the final seven. Bevins isn't doing anything better or worse, I think it just happened to be that some bits struck a chord with me more than others; you may very well have a different response.

My favorite track is Scotland and White People and showcases Bevins's unique outlook on the subject of race. His insights are not only witty (if you wanna live around only white people, you'll have to put up with crap weather) but also funny in their dead-on accuracy (he wants enough white people in his neighborhood that police will respond to an emergency but not so many that he needs permission to paint his house). As he goes from explaining why Koreans make the best doctors to noting that Native Americans love having Caucasian friends (they never learn), Bevins cleverly covers all of the bases. 

The album ends with Bevins describing how he wants his funeral to be a party of randomness that initially put me in mind of a similar bit from Nick Swardson's first special on Comedy Central. Bevins distances himself by going much further into detail, including a 21 Gun Salute consisting entirely of rifle-toting rednecks and the second of two appearances on the CD by a naked clown (which made me a bit wary of what is bubbling deep in his psyche). As Bevins explains, it's all about having fun, not taking things too seriously, and, whenever possible, being inappropriate.

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