Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Darryl Lenox's "Blind Ambition"

I really enjoyed “Blind Ambition,” the new CD from comedian Darryl Lenox, and my favorite thing about it is the fact that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s a well-constructed and finely thought-out hour that tells one cohesive story instead of presenting us with a random assortment of unrelated jokes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Lenox’s set has a true sense of narrative and his is the perfect voice to tell the tale (coming from a radio background I’m a big fan of people with great speaking voices and Lenox definitely falls into that category).

The album doesn’t explode out of the starting gate with one huge belly laugh after another. Instead, Lenox takes his time, setting the tone and the mood by giving us a bit of backstory on how a Canadian bar fight affected the rest of his life (and his vision). There are a lot of smiles and chuckles along the way but no huge guffaws and that’s OK. Lenox lets you warm up to him and his sense of humor and as you get to know him, you learn to appreciate his patient approach and soon the laughs begin to spill in. Slow at first, and then building up bigger and bigger as we go. In a world of Michael Bay-style stand-up comics who rely on explosions and CGI, it’s nice to find a Woody Allen who is more concerned with composition and character.

Lenox is an American living in Canada who doesn’t hide his preference for all things Canuck. He thinks the women are better (they don’t seem to have been influenced by the Real Housewives) and it’s obvious Canadians have a great healthcare plan as evidenced by their arrogant jaywalking. That’s not to say Canada doesn't have its quirks, though. He was once kicked out of the country for a year (Travel Tip: Don’t lie to the Border Agents) and a seemingly innocent bowl of porridge resulted in the most violent Canadian experience he’d ever been a part of.

The title of the CD refers to Lenox’s long-time battle with his vision and having to face the very real possibility that he would lose his vision not just in one eye (thanks to the aforementioned pub brawl) but in both. It’s a predicament many of us have pondered, but probably not as seriously as Lenox had to. Could he really, actually, go through the rest of his life with no vision? The dramatic part of him had vowed to kill himself if the medical procedure he had to undergo wasn’t successful. The comedian in him could only foresee the hilariously futile results of a blind person trying to commit suicide in a number of different scenarios. The mental picture he paints of his wife, eating M&M’s off of the floor that he mistook for life-ending pills, is original and clever.

Other bits on the project that are memorable include George W. Bush’s drunken YouTube address to America that is probably more honest than is recommended and the widely-understood but rarely-talked about rule that men should never, ever eat the last one of anything in the house. The longest track is nearly 12-1/2 minutes long and its main thrust is the old “men and women are different” gag. Although the topic itself has become a bit of a comedian stereotype, Lenox does quite well at maintaining a fresh perspective and avoids any common potholes that are generally present in such an oft-traveled road.

All of the main points Lenox has touched upon are brought back and wrapped up in the final chapter in a surprisingly genuine way that most comedians tend to shy away from. For the most part, if a comic dares to be sentimental or uplifting, they feel the need to burst the bubble for the sake of a laugh. Lenox does no such thing. Instead of leaving us with a huge bringing-down-the-house punchline, Lenox leaves us with inspiration, and I liked the change-up. It brought a nice sincerity to the evening and the ending felt just like what it was: an ending to a well-told story. A story with a lot of genuine heartbreak and laughs and a story I left feeling fortunate to have heard.

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