The new CD from Ray Harrington, “The Worst is Over,” is time well spent with a comedian whose grounded likability and regular guy-ness makes the hour fly by. There are some celebrities who, although I don’t know them personally, just seem like nice people to be around. People like George Clooney, John Goodman, and Tom Hanks have that “good guy” feel to them and Ray Harrington belongs in that same category. And just like those three examples, Harrington can really make me laugh.
This project was recorded in Portland (not that one, the other) and Harrington immediately develops a playful rapport with the seaside crowd. The bachelorette parties in attendance (Three of them? Heavens to murgatroid!) are given the attention they crave and are then quickly put in their place. It’s a nifty bit of crowd work that I found quite impressive: Recognize any potential time bombs ticking in the audience and defuse them immediately.
The bulk of Harrington’s comedy is observational and it’s fun to witness him try to fit in with his Fantasy Football-loving friends, questioning the prison wood store (“Other states don’t have such a thing because they recognize a box of nightmares when they see it”), and trying to field the TLC-inspired hypothetical “would you still love me if...” questions unleashed upon him by his wife.
Harrington stands at a towering 6’7” (so don’t ask him later) and the idea of him trying to explain what Chuck E. Cheese is to people in the UK is a fun mental picture. In fact, when it comes to imagining scenarios he has a few of his own he’d like to suggest...ladies. Yes, he’s a married man (sorry to disappoint) but if you are going to fantasize about being with him, Harrington kindly suggests you set those fantasies at a Wendy’s location.
Growing up without a father figure can sometimes be a struggle and Harrington has turned his awkward and un-led stumble into manhood into some very funny bits. Without someone to teach him the ways of the Guy Code, something as simple as going to a public restroom alone for the first time as a child can become a major achievement. Of course, it’s not until Young Harrington is in there that he realizes just how much he doesn’t know.
Whether he is experiencing his first tornado in Nebraska or attending the Batman premiere next to a guy with a backpack full of question marks, Harrington is quite humorous as he keeps one eye on the perceived trouble around him and the other on the nearest exit (I know that makes it sound like he’s cross-eyed, but you know what I mean). The album comes to a close with an almost-standing ovation that you don’t have to be present to enjoy and the audience - full of seagulls, people with weird laughs, and the occasional shifty squirrel - once again gets their moment in the spotlight.
Sometimes life is scary, confusing, or just plain ridiculous. Sometimes it’s not the guy who needs enhancement and sometimes when girls go out together, one of them gets lost or left behind. No matter what happens, though, Harrington reminds us that not only is the worst over, but now is the time to laugh at it. I like that.