Friday, July 20, 2012

Johnny Walker's "A Really Intimate Experience"

A Really Intimate Experience by Johnny Walker is a great example of a comedian having fun on stage and witnessing that sheer love of the craft spilling out onto everyone within earshot. Walker doesn't have an agenda, an ulterior motive, or a politically-inspired call to action lurking beneath the humor. He's not here to incite, scold, or sway you to vote one way or another. Walker's only task at hand is to have a good time and make sure the audience does as well. 

He succeeds with flying colors.

Walker begins his set by insisting his moniker is not a stage name and offers up a few examples of what he and the famous scotch don't have in common (he's not dangerous, has never been "neat," and he's never ruined Christmas). I especially enjoyed that Walker doesn't take himself too seriously. In fact, he has what he refers to as a number of "Fresca" jokes. They're bubbly, not to be taken seriously, and usually groan-inducing. With Walker, though, that's just part of the fun. If you're going to do an eye-rolling joke, you might as well go for the full groan and then laugh at how "Fresca" it was.

Just because Walker has a light-hearted approach to comedy that doesn't mean he doesn't make some valid observations. When he proposes the drinking age be lowered by three years, it's hard to argue when he points out that fact that an 18-year-old can star in a porno film but can't have a beer. Walker is right. It does seem a little off-kilter.

Although online acronyms like LOL and ROFL are nothing new to comedians' material, Walker is able to breathe new life into the topics, giving a fresh outlook on what may otherwise be redundant in the hands of someone else. I really enjoyed his breakdown of the old 80s computer game Oregon Trail and I admit it never struck me that it came with a lot of grown-up stresses for a product geared toward 4th graders (have fun when you fjord the stream, as all of your children may die as a result of the action).

The stand-up portion of Walker's show is solid and if you're anything like me, you'll also relish his bits about sports teams named after Native Americans, the beer industry's choice to market their product as if they are courting children, and the fact that Walker always pronounces The Sooner State as if there's an exclamation point behind it.

For a few tracks,  Walker pulls out his guitar to regale us with song. There are some comedy purists who look down on comics who also do music, but in this case it's not a gimmick or a crutch. Instead of coming across as a Stephen Lynch or Bo Burnham, Walker put me in mind of Mike Birbiglia when he does his "Guitar Guy" bit. Walker isn't an especially good singer, but he doesn't pretend to be. The fact that he's not actually adds to the enjoyment and after one particular selection is over Walker laughs at himself and humbly remarks, "And that's the song...You don't have to applaud."

The songs are fun and inspired, even when you'd think they wouldn't be. If you told me ahead of time there were song parodies of "Rainbow Connection" and a Michael Jackson classic, I probably would have rolled my eyes and pre-judged. And I would have been wrong in doing so. Walker's lyrics are hilarious, especially when he mimics MJ's trademark "woohoo," giving it an entirely unforgettable new meaning. 

His original non-parody songs are equally amusing, especially when Walker throws music theory out the window, not even bothering to make the verses rhyme. His song about being comfortable - maybe too comfortable - with his wife is dead-on in its accuracy and his ode to the less-than-stellar beer Natural Light was a personal favorite ("If Bud's the king, Natty's the moat around the castle")

Walker is down-to-earth and engaging and I enjoyed every track on the CD. In a world of comedians whose acts are rooted in pompous, I'm-better-than-you arrogance, Walker's offering of a really intimate experience is a welcome alternative.

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