Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last-Minute Recommendations

In case you haven't noticed (and if you haven't, you haven't?), the number of reviews I've cranked out has trickled off the second half of this year. It's not for any specific reason and definitely not for lack of material, but sometimes there's just more going on than I can tackle at once. 

True, I could have written shorter reviews (I usually try to listen to each album at least three times and hit at least a 500-word count in each post), but I didn't want to shortchange any of the comedians. It wouldn't have been fair to them to not give them the attention they deserved.

But is giving them no attention fair? 

Good question.

That being said, I will get to them. Until I do, though, I wanted to give you a quick list of those comedians whose official reviews I haven't yet written but their names need to be known. Some of them will appear on my Best of 2013 list and some won't, but they all deserve a place on your hard drive. Swing by the Comedy Reviews store and pick 'em up.

Here they are, in alphabetical order. I haven't been able to write about them yet, but - spoiler alert - I'll have nothing but good things to say when I do. 

There ya go. Nine albums that are well worth blowing your Christmas money on. So what are you waiting for? Get to laughing!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Tole's "Reign in Laughs"



On his CD “Reign in Laughs,” John Tole does his best to do just what the album title promises. He tries a variety of different comedy styles - blue, surreal, bait-and-switch, blue, over-the-top, blue, observational, and blue - and it may be because he throws in so many styles that it never quite clicked with me.

Tole seems to switch his batting stance so often, it’s no wonder that I never felt able to settle in as a listener. And, in what becomes a predictable pattern, when the laughs don’t seem big enough or Tole feels unsure where to go next, things take a sudden left turn into the gutter. No matter what it is Tole is ranting about, he finds a way to shoehorn it into a joke about masturbation and bodily fluids. 

When it comes to blue humor, I suppose I’m a little picky. As long as it makes me laugh, I’m good. When it doesn’t, though, it just seems...dirty. Such is the case, here. And, when partnered with a premise that is a little hard to follow (Note the odd silence of the audience when Tole declares, “That’s the porn voice of the girl who doesn’t make the porn audition where there is no job to get.” OK, what?), it doesn’t always result in the biggest reaction.

There are times when Tole is really on to something. Take for instance the phrase “You’re my everything” that is often uttered by those in love. It seems like a great launching pad for a bit but instead Tole decides to go random with an “Oh yea? I’m you’re everything? Well what about...” diatribe that inexplicably includes nose zits and burrito farts that completely abandons his original point for what seems to be no other reason than to see how gross he can be. Like going blue, you can do gross humor as long as it’s part of/assists the punchline, but when you go for the gross-out groan and use that as the punchline, I tune out.

At one point, Tole brings the crowd along for a multi-person impression of The Internet that is simultaneously funny, clever, and a nice commentary on the current state of pop culture. I really enjoyed it and felt that’s when Tole really shined. If more of his material was grounded in similar territory, I think the laughs would really be reined in.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Bill Cosby's "...Far From Finished"




The Cos is back.

I don’t think you understand how incredible that statement is, so I’ll say it again. 

The Cos is back.

The Cos. Is back.

And he’s “Far From Finished.”

Not that he ever really went away. Despite the fact this is his first stand-up special in 30 years (Nope, I don’t feel old. Nope), he hasn’t been slacking by any means. He’s always kept himself busy by hitting the road and performing shows and it’s probably safe to say he is the most revered comedian we have around. I still think back to the scene in Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian documentary where Chris Rock is telling Seinfeld about the Cosby show he went to see and how it blew him away. A few scenes later, Seinfeld is ducking backstage to catch a few words with the comedian and there’s a sense of awe and wonder; Dorothy finally entering the chamber of the Great Wizard.

There’s a reason Cosby is so widely revered. He's funny as all get out.

The first thing people say when I tell them there’s a new Cosby project is, “How old is he?” He’s 76 and just as funny as he was when he was talking about Noah, his brother Russell, and his trip to the dentist. In fact, for those of you have listened to Cosby’s comedy over the years, there are a couple of callbacks to some classic routines that are genius. Cosby doesn’t overplay them or make someone feel left out if they don’t quite pick up on them, but it’s a playful wink to those who are paying attention. 

If you're concerned that Cosby has become less funny with age...I mean, come on. What’s wrong with you? When someone is as funny as this, it never goes away. And if you were concerned that Cosby + Comedy Central = Crass, well...he addresses that concern at the beginning and does it so perfectly, you know in an instant that nothing has changed, and classic Cosby is here to stay.

Cosby’s material is still rooted in the classic themes in which he’s always thrived: Wives/Girrrlfriends (there’s a classic chess metaphor just waiting to kill you), his children (he brought you into this world, and...hey, let him say it!), his own stories from childhood (his buddy Otis and the sweet story of his boyhood crush on Bernadette), and how he’s never grown up (his tale of trying to sneak chocolate chip cookies is a lot of fun and his wife makes the perfect foil)

When I first received this project, I was excited to pull the bulky two-disc CD case from the envelope. My initial reaction was, “Oh wow, a CD/DVD combo!” Imagine my amazement when it dawned on me that both discs were CDs. That’s how much incredible material is included. Two hours and 15 minutes of brilliance that you’ll be raving about to friends immediately. They shouldn’t even offer single tracks on Amazon or iTunes because, really, you need to buy the entire thing. I’ve listened to it at least five times in the last couple of weeks and I’m not tired of it by any means. (And yes, the project is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray.)

I was talking to a friend about how much I love this project and he asked a good question. “Is it good because it’s good, or is it just because it’s Cosby?” The answer, really, is both. Yes, it’s good and yes, it’s Cosby, and the two of those factors together make for an album that is one of the best CDs I’ve heard not just this year, but in a long, long time (and maybe I’m just prejudiced because of the constant repeating of the phrase, “My friend Ed!”).

If you’ve laughed at anything Cosby has ever done, you will loveFar From Finished.” It’s a perfect addition to your Cosby collection and I don’t believe I’m exaggerating when I say it’s going to be an instant classic. I love that it’s coming out so soon to the holidays. When friends and family are over and the turkey has been eaten and everyone just wants to sit and digest, put this CD on. You’ll love watching the people you love laugh. 

Thanks, Cos. 



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Greg Fitzsimmons's "Life on Stage"




I knew I liked the new CD from Greg Fitzsimmons, “Life on Stage,” but it wasn’t until I found myself slipping his anecdotes into my everyday conversations that I realized just how much it stuck with me. Granted, I don’t try to pass off his material as my own but I am pretty sure people are getting sick of hearing me start off every other sentence with the phrase, “Ya know, I was listening to this comedian the other day...”

What can I say? If Fitzsimmons wasn’t so simultaneously accurate and humorous with his observations about insurance and the fact that it’s really just legalized gambling (“I bet I die.” “I bet you don’t.”) and the glass half-full way of looking at debt (It just means you had more fun that you were supposed to), then maybe I could start relying on my own wit to get myself through social interactions. Fortunately for people like me who depend on the insights of others to inject humor into discussions, he doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

Like it says in the old adage, what Fitzsimmons has to say is funny because it’s true. The countries with the most water really are the most powerful and the way we seem to flaunt it really is a little over the top. While arid societies struggle and their inhabitants walk two miles in sandals for a bucket of drinkable water, we’ve got theme parks devoted to sliding down it, we throw our extra money in it, and then we go home and poop in it. Take that, third world.

Fitzsimmons proves how good he is at working off-the-cuff when he ventures into the audience to play the game at which he is remarkably skilled, “Guess the Asian.” His foray leads him into a bit on Hawaii that is so good, it shows he’s either really really good at improvising or he’s got a great bit tucked away, hoping he’ll bump into someone from the Pacific paradise so he can use it.

For every nugget of truth Fitzsimmons doles out (If someone who can’t speak the language can steal your job then maybe you suck at your job), he’s also got some ideas that are...well, they’re pretty unique. He makes a strong case for not getting glasses when you get older, reveals how to get a man to do ANYTHING YOU WANT, wonders why we rescue dogs but not the homeless, and strongly believes no woman should leave an abortion clinic feeling ashamed (You just won a million bucks!).

There is a friendly playfulness to Fitzsimmons’s delivery that softens the blow of his ideas, even when they push the envelope or dip into “blue” territory. He’s not mean-spirited or angry and because he’s smiling when he gives his explanation of life, you feel free to laugh without worry of who might walk into the room. True, it’s not exactly life as described in the BBC television series, but life as seen through the filter of a very funny man.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jim Norton's "Please Be Offended"




Jim Norton is one of those comedians whose albums I’ve come to trust. You may find yourself wandering around the store and see a new CD from him in the COMEDY section. You can confidently buy it without giving it a preview listen. With Norton, you know he’s going to be on edge, you know he’s going to have a word or two for the idiots of the world (or, as he calls them, “goose eggs”), and you know he’s going to make you laugh. His latest, “Please Be Offended” does just that.

Despite the name of the album, as long as you have your sense of humor in tact and are willing to admit people do some really stupid things (even if you’re the guilty one), you’re not going to be offended. Unless you happen to think the Westboro Baptist Church is actually doing the work of God or you’re a pedophile who finds kids sexy (Something, it should be noted, Norton just can’t wrap his head around. The incessant questions alone guarantee he’ll never be accused of such a horrible crime)

It seems there are a lot of people in the public forum today screaming about the innumerable ways their rights are being violated and Privacy is the topic that has Norton screaming right back. A good chunk of the album addresses the subject but not in a way that seems heavy-handed or political. Where were the people demanding privacy when America was rooting through the trash of Tiger, Mel, and Arnold? And, just in case you have forgotten exactly what that garbage consisted of, Norton re-caps each situation perfectly. The result is bitingly funny.

We’ve all had friends who posted the quote by Ben Franklin on their Facebook wall about our privacy being violated and Norton has a few choice words in response (including a blunt invitation to fornicate Mr. Franklin). Times have changed and Ben only had to worry about his kite crashing down in the storm, not a plane full of innocent people plunging on top of him as well. There’s also a little something for those complaining about the full-body scans at the airport. You don’t want those scans of your body on the internet? How full of yourself do you have to be to even think people would want to look at that? Sit down and shut up.

Norton may step on a few toes along the way, but they’re usually toes that deserve to be stomped upon. He can’t fathom why the people who wanted to put a mosque at Ground Zero couldn’t understand why it might upset people (simply put, there’s a difference between a mosque and a strip club) and if you didn’t think he’d have something to say about the Penn State...”horseplay”...then you don’t know Norton very well. 

This CD is exactly what a comedy CD should be and Norton does his job well. He takes the things people are yelling about the most and puts them all back into perspective. It’s easy to get lost in the heated and passionate discussions filling the airwaves and Norton serves as a nice counter to the talking (or, more accurately, yelling) heads flooding our ears. If I’m going to listen to someone who’s frustrated, emotional, and slightly perturbed, I’m going to listen to someone who can also make me laugh. Jim Norton is that man.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tom Shillue's "Impossible"



Tom Shillue has returned with another installment of his 12-in-12 project and by this point it should come as a surprise to no one that things are clicking along at a smooth and consistent pace. Just like each previous chapter in the series, Shillue brings with him a bag of seemingly random stories (That’s right. In my head, he totes his stories around in a bag. A dark green duffel bag, if you must know) that all wind up seamlessly interwoven into the big picture.

The first of two tracks on his “Impossible” project is labeled “Unremarkable” and although the tales contained therein technically are just that, the way Shillue spins a yarn is...whatever the opposite of “unremarkable” is. “Markable” doesn’t sound right, but I’m going with it anyhow. The way Shillue spins a yarn is truly markable. 

A great story about a conversation he overheard on the train, helping a family of tourists become even more confused with public transit, and having the distinct one-of-a-kind, no one-else-ever-did-it pleasure of meeting John Boy Walton are all touchstones Shillue uses to turn the mundane into killer material. 

The title track is the epitome of storytelling, complete with eerie music to set the tone. Shillue begins by admitting his story sounds incredible, unbelievable, and yes...impossible but swears it’s true. Believe it....or not-ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. 

Shillue recounts the time in college when he and his “Environment”-dwelling roommate decided to fly paper airplanes. Where could this possibly lead? And what’s so fantastic about paper airplanes?

Trust me. Trust Shillue. Wait for it. And then believe it.....or not-ahhhhhhhh.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Patrice O'Neal's "Unreleased"



Man, it’s good to hear Patrice O’Neal again.

Unreleased” features (mostly) brand new material that until now hadn’t been shared with the general public. This is the third album to drop since O’Neal’s passing (If you count “Better Than You,” the 20-minute EP that came out last year and is also included on this CD) and is yet another reminder of what an amazing talent we lost. Once again we get to see what a naturally funny man he was. It came so easily, so effortlessly, one hilarious line after another flowed from him and not even he was able to contain it.

If you’re familiar with O’Neal’s style of comedy, you know he’s not exactly ABC Family material. At the same time, though, his comedy doesn’t feel dirty. When you listen to a Jim Norton CD, for example, you may feel like you need a shower afterwards. A long, long shower. O’Neal doesn’t leave you with that feeling because he was so light-hearted in his approach. The way his voice squeaked with laughter as he uttered the most ridiculously graphic sentences gave his blue humor a light-hearted feel that took away any mean-spirited bite that might have been there if someone else uttered the exact same lines (Like the YouTube-r who recently landed himself in the spotlight for flat-out stealing material from O’Neal - and other comics. He’s repeating O’Neal’s comedy verbatim and totally missing the mark, only proving how much of a comedic presence he’s not, especially compared to O’Neal).

Not even three minutes into the album, O’Neal is already playing with the audience, taking on various people before they have a chance to get to him, and it’s a lot of fun. He thrives on interaction and as he sets aside his prepared material on Washington DC to instead deal with a man in the crowd from the UK and his uncircumcised penis, you can’t help but get swept up in the fun.

To be honest, I don’t even know if O’Neal has prepared material when he takes the stage. I’m sure he does, but you never get the feeling that he’s hitting points A, B, and C on the pre-arranged list in his head. Everything has an organic and natural effusion and O’Neal easily dances from one topic to the next so smoothly, you don’t even notice it happening. He playfully taunts a chicken finger-eating woman in the crowd who - at first - seems a formidable opponent, never backing down from his jibes and throwing some of her own back at him. But, like a cat playing with an injured mouse before going in for the kill, it is O’Neal who will have the last word. When it is finally revealed the woman is a mother of five, well...that’s all she wrote.

O’Neal really loved what he did and you can hear in his voice the pleasure he took in entertaining people. Whether he’s explaining how a good relationship is like a car accident or giving a young bull tips on dealing with women, you know that no matter where O’Neal takes things or how far he pushes the envelope, when we get there we’re all gonna be laughing. 

Thanks to CDs like this one, we’ll continue laughing for a long, long time.


Joe DeRosa's "You Will Die"



I have a special place in my heart for Joe DeRosa.

Maybe it’s because his first album, “The Depression Auction,” was also the first review I wrote for this site. 

Maybe it’s because his second album cracked me up just as much as the first and made me a true fan (Having never heard an episode of “Opie & Anthony” in my life, even still to this day - a sacrilege, I know - his albums were my only source for his comedy)

But I think what really clinched it was seeing DeRosa perform live. I had just received my advance copy of the subject of this review, the double CD “You Will Die,” about a week before his performance in the dark lower level of The Chameleon Club in Lancaster PA known as The Lizard Lounge. Listening to his new project was the first time an album made me laugh out loud so hard, so many times, in a long time. But I’ll get to that in a little bit.

Seeing as how this new CD hadn’t even dropped yet, I assumed that, like most people with a new album coming out, I would basically be witnessing a live version of the tracks on the CD. Mind you, I was completely fine with that and knowing what’s coming down the road doesn’t take away from the experience, especially with a comedian like DeRosa.

Bear in mind, this CD is an hour and eleven minutes long. Not only is that a lot of comedy, but that’s a lot of REALLY GOOD comedy. That night in mid-August I would say DeRosa repeated, I don’t know, maybe five minutes of material from this album.  Other than that, it was entirely new material, and it killed. It killed. 

This guy has a new CD hitting shelves in a week, and he’s already got a new hour that, from what I could tell, had no kinks to work out. Mind blown. Game over. If I wasn’t on board before, I am now standing in the crow’s nest, dressed in authentic pirate regalia, and screaming at the landlubbers below to board this mother freakin’ boat.

I said all that to say this: “You Will Die” is incredible. 

Whether you’ve been with DeRosa from the beginning or are just hearing about him for the first time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album with so much bang for the buck. He begins by recanting a depressing dinner at Golden Corral (yes, he was there alone) and continues by simply stating, “Here’s a poem I wrote the other day while I was eating hot dogs.”

DeRosa is back in all of his fed-up glory, shaking a metaphorical fist in the air as he raves about Italian-Americans, the bad taste of gays, people who thank God for personal favors, and nurses (and he’s not raving about them in the sense of saying, “Wow, nurses are great” but as in, “Nurses are the reason people are dying”). 

Never one to throw stones while glass house-dwelling, he’ll be the first to admit he may have a bit of a temper. He’s pretty sure his neighbors think he’s an abusive husband when in actuality, it’s just him reacting to the computer screwing up again. And hey, jumping back to that whole nurses thing, WHY ARE YOU WEARING YOUR SCRUBS OUTSIDE??

On DeRosa’s previous album, there was a great bit on KFC and he one-ups it this time with an amazing story about a particularly incredible visit with The Colonel. DeRosa’s gift of storytelling particularly shines here and I don’t want to give anything away. Let’s just say it’s a magical tale of generosity, incredulity, and gluttony.

And that’s just on the first disc. The second half of the project is an amazing gift to comedy fans in what is truly an act of bravery in self-exposure. As explained by DeRosa in the introductory track, the second CD is what transpired the first time they tried to record a show for the album. DeRosa found himself in Atlanta in the middle of the Final Four action, on the same evening a free concert was happening down the street, with a room of drunken assholes who thought it more enjoyable to scream at the comic rather than let the comic do his thing. 

So, basically, behaving exactly how Northerners think Southerners behave.

For the next hour we witness DeRosa battling left and right to keep his composure as the crowd seems determined not to let him get through a bit without yelling at him, talking on their phones, or screaming “Drink the shot!” Sometimes DeRosa wins the battle and sometimes he loses, but regardless of which side has the upper hand, I loved every bit of it (even as my hatred for every person in the crowd grew exponentially the more I listened)

DeRosa abandons his set list and what happens next is even better than Bill Burr’s infamous Philadelphia rant. The audience lobs their “clever” heckles at DeRosa and he returns by slamming them in the face with an overhand smash. I was on my feet cheering like I was watching Rocky Balboa turn the tides and give Ivan Drago the ultimate beatdown. 

I’m so glad DeRosa decided to include this show. It’s a rare glimpse into the world of comedy and what happens when a comic experiences The Set From Hell. DeRosa didn’t have to share it with us but he did. He could have let us think that each of his shows is just as good as the one on his CDs and he knocks them dead every time, but he didn’t. He deserves all the kudos in the world for that. 

You Will Die” is the name of the project and, as the second disc shows, sometimes we do. But, on the other hand, you have the first disc. And sometimes you kill.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Pete Correale's "Give It A Rest"



Maybe it’s me, but when I listen to Pete Correale, I hear Bill Burr. Like, the New York version of Bill Burr. Quickly perturbed, quick to raise his voice, and funnier the more riled up he gets, it’s easy to hear the resemblance (not to mention the timbre and tonality of their voices are quite similar). The comparison shouldn’t be interpreted as a negative. As a big fan of Burr, it’s quite the opposite. If I tell you a movie reminds me of a Pegg/Frost/Wright collaboration, then you should most definitely see that movie. Likewise, if you enjoy Burr’s humor and comedic sensibility, you should most definitely snatch up a copy of Correale’s “Give It A Rest.”

The CD begins with an introduction from Jim Breuer that, although some may find enjoyable to hear, I found unnecessary mostly because Correale truly is a funny guy. I don’t need a testimonial from anyone telling me what I’m chuckling at is funny; my laughter is all the proof I need. From the very first bit you know you’re in good hands and for the next 60 minutes it’s nothing but laughs all the way.

There are a number of things, most of them inconsequential, that get Correale riled up and because he’s sweating the little things, the humor is amplified. I enjoyed listening to him get bent out of shape as he shops for a new mattress (and you have to admit, that whole situation is a little weird), receives a pet-themed Christmas card from a friend, and questions the morality of placing a Tot Finder fire sticker on his own bedroom window.

Correale has a confident and secure stage presence yet never comes across as condescending or better than the next guy. He’s just a regular Joe trying to figure out why it’s such a bad thing if he misidentifies someone’s race (“alligators/crocodiles”) and who cares if he can’t hang out with his buddy and not have a beer? He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to die doing something they love and why are we sweating the money America owes to China when we all know we’re never gonna pay it back? The deeper we delve into these topics, the richer the comedy becomes.

As much as he can’t understand why people get themselves so worked up about losing their cat, Correale is more than willing to lose a little bit of sleep as he enthusiastically ponders Tom Brady and his extreme luck, explains why we should all be grateful dogs can’t talk, and questions why we still announce smoking isn’t allowed on planes.

The album ends with a bonus track that includes some bits Correale claims the producer didn’t think were funny enough to include with the rest of his set. I have to side with the comedian on this one. His thoughts on dolphins and horses are solid, as equally funny as the rest of his act, and I’m glad they didn’t get left behind. All in all, this is a great CD that deserves to be included in the library of anyone who loves to laugh.


Bob Saget's "That's What I'm Talkin' About"



There isn't a lot my pal Nick Vitto and I disagree on. We both love film and comedy. We love Spielberg, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons and can talk about them for hours (Ask my wife, who has on more than one occasion listened to us ramble about such topics like a couple of pros). When we do disagree, although it never turns heated or argumentative, we couldn't disagree more. The two points of contention on which there is no middle ground are the Ernest movies and Bob Saget. Nick loves 'em. I opposite of love 'em. 

And so, when it came to reviewing Bob Saget's "That's What I'm Talkin' About," I jokingly mentioned to Nick that he should write the review, since there's no way I was going to write anything favorable (I listened, and I was right). Nick happily accepted the challenge and I present to you his review. Regardless of where you stand on the whole Saget/Ernest thing, I think you'll like reading Nick's thoughts. I did. You can hear more from Nick by following him on Twitter or stalking him on Facebook.

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Unless you’ve been in a coma since the mid 90’s, before Michelle Tanner fell off a horse and lost her memory in the season finale of Full House, then everyone should know by now that Bob Saget’s standup routine has become synonymous with the lowest form of filth. It’s unbelievably tasteless, and Bob Saget knows this better than anyone. 

He’s also well aware of the fact that for eight, yes, EIGHT seasons he played an uptight, neat-freak father who was so schmaltzy that it made just about every TV critic puke. Not to mention his side job as the high-pitched-talking host of the original America’s Funniest Home Videos. The name Bob Saget had become a punch line. But when Bob was no longer obligated to be ABC’s good natured dad, it was time for him to spread his wings. But little did most of us know that those wings were covered with poop and sex jokes.

In 2007, Bob released a one-hour HBO special, “That Ain’t Right.” It featured Bob in all his Saget-ness. Despite his junior-high rapid fire gutter jokes, he admirably took plenty of shots at himself and the laughable image that made him famous in the 90’s. One stand out bit was a song he performed called “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay,” sung to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” He defends his character’s sexual orientation while surfacing many new details from behind the scenes of Full House that we never wanted to know about – “I never slept with Dave Coulier, but Kimmy Gibbler got it this way.”  This angle is what makes Saget so fun to watch as a comic. There’s no getting around who he was known for, and he wants to be the first to laugh at himself while dragging his own name deeper through the mud. It’s a twisted act and voice he’s developed, but he owns it.

Six years later Bob has released a new one-hour special featured on Showtime, “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About.” Bob has aged sort of like a fine wine, that’s been chilling in a urinal full of ice. It starts off exactly where he left off, stating, “I don’t want to offend anybody, I want to offend everybody.” He’s also well aware that since his last special, people who grew up watching him are adults now, and forewarns the audience; “Oh, I grew up watching you.” “Good, cause now you’re gonna go down watching me.”

His rapport with the audience is actually one of the most sincerest I’ve seen from any comic and is one of the funnier nuances of this performance. I believe I counted at least four fist bumps with audience members in the front row. And he hasn’t forgotten about his fans in the back rows either: “What’s your name, bro?” “J-Bone” [Bob’s eyes widen as if he were about to be hit by a train] “Where the f*** am I?” But Bob knows exactly where he is and what his audience wants to hear him say as he caters to their every need. He feeds off this young and drunk college crowd adding to his endless energy of rant-style joke telling.

What Bob may lack in tightly structured joke telling and writing, he makes up for it with a great ability to tell twisted stories of his life. I mean, if you’re on a show with a big cast like Full House for eight years, you’re bound to have at least a few amusing anecdotes. He doesn’t disappoint, as he tells a horrendous story of about an episode they did, that I remember far too well, with a donkey that kept getting an erection on set. In the episode the donkey’s name was Shorty, but off camera Bob called him “Peppermill.” Do the math. Another great story is called “John Stamos and The 8 X 10.” It involves Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier and Bob’s nephew as they decide to take a trip to Vegas. Let’s just say it involves a naked Coulier and Stamos’ tongue. Don’t do the math on that one yet. Just give it a listen if you’re so inclined.

The last part of the show is Bob’s infamous song singing time. He does about five songs, most of which are rather somber sounding, but filled with plenty of dirty lyrics to satisfy. A standout that will remain stuck in your head for most of the day, is the upbeat, “Butt Plug Made of Leather.” All of these songs are fine musical comedy additions, but none of them could top his swan song, “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay,” featured as the final bit in his previous special.

Bob Saget is that friends’ dad who is more immature than you are, but you still secretly want to be just like him when you become a dad. It’s truly amazing how young at heart and upbeat he remains despite all the personal tragedies he’s had to deal with in his life. But for those in need of a break from high society for an hour, there’s no better way to spend it than listening to some solid poop and wiener jokes heavily featured in “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About,” which is now available on Netflix Instant. You can shrug him off if it’s just not your kind of humor, but don’t forget, “everywhere you look” Bob Saget “is waiting to carry you home.” Those words are truer than I’d like them to be.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moshe Kasher's "Live in Oakland"



Moshe Kasher is “Live in Oakland” for his latest release and you’re bound to enjoy it whether you’re Christian, Jewish, straight, gay, or leprechaun (which, he explains, is pretty much the same thing as being Jewish). He begins the show with a disclaimer appropriate for the beginning of any comedy show: Basically, if you don’t have a sense of humor, then go home. 

Here, here.

The evening begins with a bit on Christians that, as a Christian, I found especially funny - cliche that it is - because it’s true. Can you really call being around other Christians for all eternity the definition of heaven? And now that we're talking about the “prizes” we get in Heaven, it would be nice to know there’s more than just a multi-stringed instrument waiting for us. 

When it comes to judging a book by its cover, Kasher is more than aware of what his cover looks like and the image he projects. Despite his clothing choices he’s not gay and despite the spectacles he’s sporting, they’ve never raped anyone. He has the kind of stature that incites people in Ireland to point and laugh and although he once started a fight the most impotently Jew-y way possible, he still came out the victor so...you know...just be careful. 

You can’t spend any time in New York City and not walk away with a fun story or two and Kasher is no different. His tale of being stuck on a subway car when an impromptu Rastafarian celebration breaks out is a lot of fun and when he is accused for being impolite for not taking part, the points he raises are hard to refute. 

Speaking of annoying people with dreadlocks, how about those hippies? Yes, Kasher has a few words for you as well, my Jim Morrison-worshipping friends. And before you raise your voices to protest Kasher’s revelations about the true resting ground of the overrated front man from The Doors or the perfect place to hide something from a hippie, may I please direct your attention to the disclaimer at the beginning of the CD?

Confident without being cocky, Kasher is not afraid to take on his detractors. The heckler who really knows her way around a pregnancy test probably should have thought twice before thinking she could best Kasher and as he reads actual hate-filled comments left on one of his YouTube videos, it’s hard to not buy into the theory that the youth of today are going to make the earth explode tomorrow.

With a 50-minute running time, the album is just the right length. Kasher brings a generous amount of good laughs without ever wearing out his welcome. He’s just as willing to point a finger at others (who yells “next” at a comedy show?) as he is himself (a bout of food poisoning brought to light an unexpected skill) and when everyone is fair game, everyone is free to laugh.



Monday, August 26, 2013

Craig Ferguson's "I'm Here To Help"



Allow me to start things off by admitting I love Craig Ferguson, so this review may be a bit biased (What can I say? It's his own fault for consistently cracking me up). I watch his late night show with faithful regularity and there’s hardly a comment, aside, or mumble that is uttered that doesn’t strike me as hilarious. His brash confidence in not having a reason to be confident, his unrestrained self-deprecation, and his disdain not only for the Hollywood machine but for those who keep it going... I love it all. Even his intolerance for the audience itself, which one might assume would come across as off-putting or condescending, is funny. He’s mastered the art of sincere insincerity (or is it the other way around?) and I confess that, in my eyes, he can do no wrong. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed his newest offering, “I’m Here to Help.” For someone who always wishes his opening monologue on TV would go longer, this CD is just what I was hoping it would be. The running time is a very generous 80 minutes (80 minutes!) and I loved every bit of it. 

I was talking with a friend of mine about Ferguson and although he also finds him funny,  he claims Ferguson’s use of profanity is a turn-off. All I could do was invite him to put on his big boy pants and get over it. Sure, it may be a little jolting at first if you’ve only seen him on TV where his slips of the tongue are dubbed over with foreign phrases like “Oo La La!” but I was too busy laughing at what was being said to worry about the words used to say it. 

Obviously influenced by the likes of Monty Python (a fact Ferguson himself touches on during the special), he approaches comedy with an air of gleeful abandon. Never afraid to commit to the bit and with no concern for looking too silly, Ferguson’s dedication to chasing the laugh is a wonderful thing to witness.

Those familiar with Ferguson’s comedy will not be surprised to find out he touches on topics like fatherhood, kids in general, and addiction. Those familiar with Ferguson’s comedy will also not be surprised to hear it’s still hilarious when he does. No one is safe from his sites and he doesn’t hold back a bit. People who say they have a chocolate addiction are stupid and so are people who claim they have “experimented” with drugs (No you didn’t. You’re not a scientist). And Angelina Jolie is a bitch (You’ll have to hear the bit for yourself to really get what he’s saying).

Interestingly, the sillier Ferguson gets, the more accurate his observations become. Tinky Winky isn’t gay, he’s drunk. The people on “Honey Boo-Boo” really do sound like they’re yodeling underwater. And yes, his impression of Hannibal Lecter is slowly morphing into Mick Jagger. 

What I found particularly genius about Ferguson’s set is it all starts - and ends - with a joke. He’s come for the sole purpose of telling us a joke. That’s right. A joke. He wants to tell us a joke passed on by his pal Drew Carey and then be on his way. But... well... speaking of Drew Carey....

Nearly an hour and a half later, we come full circle. Oh yea, that’s right, he wanted to tell us a joke he heard from Drew. And yes, in case you were wondering, when Ferguson finally gets around to telling us the joke, it is totally worth the wait. The CD begins with a joke and ends with the joke and everything in between is bonus. 


Paul Varghese's "Paul & Oates"



I like the new CD from Paul Varghese, “Paul and Oates.” I like it a lot, to be honest. In fact, I like it so much I could fill the rest of this review with just the phrase “I loved it!” over and over again and it would be true to how I feel, but that would be lazy. Or, at least, that’s what my wife tells me. 

It would also be unfair to Varghese. There are so many wonderful moments to be found here, it would be a huge disservice to not point them out to you. Not all of them, mind you, because if I did this wouldn’t be a review as much as it would be a word-for-word transcript of everything he says. So I’ll hit a few of my favorite moments and leave the others for you to discover and be surprised by on your own. 

Varghese begins the album with three tester jokes. He explains if you like them, you’ll like the rest of the night. If you don’t, well...well, let’s be honest. His comedy is so enjoyable, his delivery so smooth and relaxed, and his observations so humorous, if you don’t find them funny then may I direct your attention to the various cat videos that can be found on YouTube. 

After getting past his intro jokes (which again, trust me, you’re going to like), we’re off and running. He begins with a great bit on his Kia rental car (that, believe it or not, was an upgrade) and hums along at a steady pace for the next 50 minutes, never once showing any signs of slowing down. There’s no lull in the middle that is often found in comedy CDs where the bits that aren’t completely finished or perfected can sometimes be hidden. Instead, Varghese motors along and brings us with him, laughing the entire time.

Many comics in recent history seem to have a lot of material about their moms: Crazy moms, disturbed moms, concerned moms, supportive moms, absent moms, single moms, you name it, it’s been covered. Because of that, Varghese’s material about his dad comes as a nice change of pace. You don’t have to be raised in Texas from a father of Indian descent to relate. Whether he’s confusing the names of diseases with those conflicted with the illness, mistaking the Swine Flu with a visa application, explaining why he doesn’t have any photos of Varghese from the age twelve through twenty, or just plain refusing to admit he may be mistaken, we can all relate with a Dad operating in the Standard Ways Of The Dad.

A single guy who doesn’t have the income to “wine and dine” a woman (it’s much more affordable to take the “juice and seduce” breakfast path), it’s not that Varghese isn’t looking to settle down, it’s just that none of the ladies are looking back. When it comes to deciding between a life-saving phone call with a 9-1-1 operator and making small talk with a cutie, it’s really not much of a decision at all.  And it’s not that he doesn’t want to get married, he just wants to be able to meet the girl before the big day (much to his parents’ chagrin).

Varghese notices a lot of little details that have gone mostly unnoticed by other comedians. The inanity of putting school bus emergency exits in the ceiling, what it’s like to eat a birthday cake intended for someone else, the notion of non-toxic crayons as opposed to the alternative, and the horrible names Americans have given various foods and drinks, Varghese hits it all with just the right amount of oomph (and measuring oomph-ness is never an easy task)

And look at that. I’ve reached the end of the review without touching on even a fraction of the things I had taken note of upon listening. But that’s a good thing. Too much funny, too much goodness, too much laughter...that’s something I’ll never complain about and with this CD you won’t find me complaining a bit.




Monday, August 19, 2013

Jerry Rocha's "Take That, Real Dad"




On his new album “Take That, Real Dad,” Jerry Rocha proves to more than just his father that he really knows how to bring the funny. Anyone within earshot will find it hard to deny he is a comedic forced to be reckoned with. Raised by a single mom who had a lot of gay friends (no...that never happened) and an interesting explanation for what happens when God goes Number Two, Rocha was primed to be a comedian from his earliest years. 

Like most comics who are good at what they do, Rocha brings a fount of unique experiences to the table from which to springboard and knows exactly which points to hone in on to extract Maximum Humor. You don’t need to dream up a lot of absurd, far-fetched premises when you’ve encountered real-life adventures like letting a stranger on a bus borrow your phone or you've stumbled through the weirdest, shoe-flinging-est One Night Stand ever.

When it comes to original ideas and observations, though, Rocha has plenty. He has a good reason for wanting a Mexican in the White House (and it’s more than just rooting for la raza) and you’ll never view the jawas in Star Wars quite the same way again. He may be on to something...or he may just be paranoid from spending so much time around his very racist uncle. And yes, I would definitely watch BET’s version of a ghost hunting show if they promised it would be done just as Rocha supposes...even though each episode would only last a few minutes.

There are two especially strong bits that come at each end of the CD. The first one is Rocha’s material on his home state of Texas. He doesn’t paint the most flattering portrait in the world as he describes the rednecks’ zealous reaction to a magician and their fervent insistence on the proper pronunciation of “Humble.” Questionable rodeo announcers, the referee of a lesbian fight whose mantra could have saved thousands on 9/11, and Southern women who are dumb (but not really. But really) serve to round out a great section of his act.

The other high point comes when Rocha talks about his dealings with The Fairer Sex. Starting off with his evil ex (who, according to his impression of her, sounds like Marc Maron doing an impression of Mitzi Shore) and ending with his current relationship and  being a little too specific during the discussion of Future Kids, Rocha keeps the laughs coming.

I like that Rocha isn’t afraid to stray from his material and deal with the audience. Yet another highlight (have you picked up on the fact that there are a LOT of strong points on this album?) comes when he confronts what he initially perceives to be a heckler and turns out to be a woman choking on a cherry. That’s not a euphemism, although it sort of ends up being one.

As Rocha mentions, sometimes when we think we’re giving someone a compliment, it doesn’t really turn out to be much of one (I’m talking to you here, White People). So yes, this project is “super” but it’s also so much more than that. Pick one up for yourself and you won’t be disappointed. 


Friday, August 16, 2013

Maria Bamford's "Ask Me About My New God!"




There are a lot of words to describe the new Maria Bamford CD, “Ask Me About My New God!” And, with the exception of “unfunny” and “run-of-the-mill,” all of those words are probably spot on. Words like quirky, goofy, random, silly, funny, confounding, deep, smart, and - at times - intelligible. In other words, everything you’ve come to expect from a Maria Bamford CD. 

It’s no great secret that Bamford is a little off-kilter and she freely embraces it, taking time to point out she’s not schizophrenic (they hear voices, they don’t do voices). It would be harsh to say she has a screw loose. Not that she hasn’t disassembled the gears in her mind and put them back together with a total disregard for the instruction manual of society. But rest assured when she replaced the screws, she gritted her teeth and screwed them in as tightly as she could. I don’t know exactly what she did while she was tinkering around in there but by God, those screws aren’t going anywhere.

And so, with an arsenal of voices (making you wonder which one is really hers) she pushes forward, merrily slipping in and out of a number of public breakdowns, her inner dialogue occasionally slipping through in a burst of shouts that, coming from her soft voice, make for a humorous juxtaposition. At one point she happily skips along, proudly displaying her mastery of pretend-Spanish and pretend-Swahili. The next moment, she’s raging at those who don’t understand her pretend-tiger (You’re not supposed to understand it!) and it’s delightful.

Although it may be easy to dismiss Bamford as just someone who talks in silly voices, that would be a mistake. There’s a lot more going on here than just dead-on impressions of her mom, her sister, the average consumer, and every minivan-driving mother of two. Listen to what she’s saying and you’ll hear some of the smartest commentary on society that’s floating around out there. Bamford gets you to laugh at her favorite - and accurate - American phrases and although the audience initially groans at her comment on the plight of US veterans, once you digest and take in what it is she’s saying, you can almost almost hear an audible CLICK as the light bulb turns on.

Because of her ability to disappear into each character, most of my friends were shocked to realize she’s the same person from the annual Target holiday commercials, something she vaguely references in a way that doesn’t bite the hand that feeds her but is still very funny. Even though Bamford is good at so many voices, she’s not an impressionist per se. Her take on Paula Deen sounds more like Cookie Monster and yet...it still sounds right.

Skittery and alert, Bamford careful tiptoes through life like a cat being chased by a kid with a roll of duct tape. Her slowness to trust makes her wary of the new building in town that sounds suspiciously like church and hesitant to participate in family vacations. She stand in the background, sort-of silently whispering words of loathesomeness she’s too afraid to say at an audible volume. There are things she wants to say...but doesn’t necessarily want to be heard.

Secretly mentoring the neighborhood kids and playing a neverending game of phone tag with Chase Bank, Bamford isn’t here to take you by storm. But she will sit back and wish through gritted teeth for the storm to go, go, go faster, go faster! Get him! Get him, storm!!!

Good times.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Kumail Nanjiani's "Beta Male"



When it comes to describing “Beta Male,” the new CD from comedian Kumail Nanjiani, I’m going to steal a line from the man himself. “It’s a great show. Definitely worth the monkey torture.” True, that doesn’t sound like a line that would seem fitting in describing a comedy album but considering Nanjiani was talking about a children’s birthday party when he said it, I think I’m completely within my bounds. 

Nanjiani is a lot of fun on stage. He’s relaxed, comfortable, and doesn’t mind pausing for a few minutes to chat with the crowd. It’s a good thing he allows himself these little pauses, as some of the most enjoyable bits come from his ad libbed audience interactions. Had he not been brave enough to go off script, we never would have met the video gamer with the world’s worst gamertag or Nanjiani’s fellow Pakistani native with an unfortunate moniker.

That’s not to downplay the material Nanjiani came prepared with. Unlike the aforementioned birthday celebration that went from bad to temporarily amazing to suddenly horrible, the crowd is highly entertained throughout the duration of his set and there was no danger of snakebite (although both will leave you with the phrase “HAH-PEE BUDDAY, TANK YOU VERY MUCH”  stuck in your head).

As a gifted storyteller, Nanjiani shines in his longer bits (that sounds weird). There’s a really funny story about getting an adult tape stuck in the family VCR and you don’t have to be a subscriber to the Married to the Games podcast to enjoy his breakdown of “Heavy Rain,” a video game dealing with much heavier themes than jumping over barrels and trying to save a princess.

Nanjiani’s comedy is never mean-spirited and is more often than not simply incredulous.  Surely he’s not the only one who noticed the guy in the park stuffing pigeons in his pockets, right? And is he the only one who thinks showing an 8-year-old child The Elephant Man might have been a bad choice? And why are people so disappointed in Freddy Krueger when he makes a racist joke but not when he murders children with his “needle hands?” 

Listening to Nanjiani deliver his own version of observational humor is a breath of fresh air, ranting at the cyan color cartridge in his printer, smartly pointing out how to make Coney Island’s world-famous roller coaster even scarier, and pointing out that “cheese,” a new street drug that mixes heroin and Tylenol PM, may not really need the second ingredient.

The CD ends with Nanjiani relaying a real-life Scooby-Doo mystery as encountered by he and his roommates. You’ll find it hard to not laugh along as you picture our hero, decked out in his cleaver-wielding colander armor, creeping up to the attic to face the ghost(s) head on. If you splurge for the DVD version, in a shouldn’t-miss Q & A session you’ll get a fun little post-script to the story. Nanjiani may claim to be a beta male when it comes to facing the supernatural but when it comes to being funny, he’s full-on alpha.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tom Shillue's "In Vogue"



The newest installment of Tom Shillue’s “12 in 12” series is here and, just like it promises on the CD cover, there are some really funny stories waiting to be discovered. “In Vogue” opens with a reading from one of my favorite sources of Shillue’s comedy: the diary he kept as a teenager. So intentional and serious at the time they were written, I’m sure Teenage Shillue would be shocked to find Adult Shillue mining his deep thoughts for comedy. What a goon.

Shillue moves on to share some of his high school adventure with his two pals Grover (the common thread between the two tracks found on the album) and Bob Martin. The Potsie and Ralph Malph to Shillue’s Richie Cunningham, they joined in on adventures both clothed and naked. In the moonlight. Singing three-part harmony. But totally not gay. Weird? Sort of. Funny? Yep.

Thus is a theme of sorts on “Soup Can,” the first of the two cuts on the CD. When Shillue and his pals weren’t (literally) fishing for an Andy Warhol autograph, they (excluding Shillue) found themselves on separate occasions on a series of dates with a strange French man named Jean Baptiste who promised en evening of fine wine, fine cuts of meat, and not having to pay for it. Again, not gay, but the wine and food were free, so why not. 

The second track of the album is called “Shoe Shine” and it is storytelling at it’s funniest. In fact, and I know this is a bold statement, it may be the single funniest track of Shillue’s entire “12 in 12” series so far. We start in Massachusetts with Shillue working for his Dad at the Dairy Barn (named as such so Mr. Shillue wouldn’t have to pay the 2.5% franchise fee to the DQ bigwigs), selling "DB Bars" and "Blizzids" along with a new staff of Chinese workers whose work ethic put the previous teenage employees to shame.

Shillue and his pal Grover (who wants to be an ah-tist!) decided to take a trip to New York City and it ended up being the weekend one could only dream about. From scoring alcohol despite being underage thanks to some very convincing European accents to attending a posh fashion gallery event to a night dancing with a model and inadvertently inventing a dance craze that swept the nation, Shillue, his overcoat, and fedora did indeed make a splash in the big city. 

And that’s not even the best part of the night. 

It’s a real whirlwind of a story and it’s hard to not share in Shillue’s excitement as the details unspool. I won’t spoil it by giving away all of the details - like which of the Duke boys was in attendance - but I can assure you you’ll enjoy hearing what went down that magical evening. Although Shillue assures us he was a dorky teenager, if his high school chums knew what happened that fateful night in the big city, they’d all have to agree he is just the opposite. That Shillue guy is definitely In Vogue.