2013 seems to be the Year of the Nice Guy. So far we’ve had releases from the likes of Kevin Nealon, Tom Shillue, Al Madrigal, Dylan Brody, and Pete Holmes. Not only have they all made me laugh, but they seem like genuinely good people and it always makes me happy when good things happen to good people. Carrying on the Nice Guy tradition is Owen Benjamin and his album, “High Five Til It Hurts” and once again words like “likable,” “congenial,” “approachable,” and “friendly” immediately come to mind.
Benjamin is a lot of fun and his laid-back stage presence is inviting. He’s comfortable to be around and he has an excited eagerness about him that is infectious. He comes across as sincerely grateful to be doing what it is he’s always wanted to do (or at least, to do the thing number three thing he’s always wanted to do) and his excitement carries over into every part of his set.
At one point, Benjamin compares men to dogs and his way of breaking it down is fresh and accurate. Yes, we’re such dogs that we’ll even watch other guys play “throw the ball” and Benjamin himself could easily be compared to a canine. As a dog person myself, I mean that in the best way possible. Lovable, eager, and happy to please, Benjamin is an extremely tall golden retriever who just happens to occasionally get a shot of bear mace in the face from tiny cowboys.
Listening to this CD isn’t like listening to your average stand-up comedy album. It’s more like hanging out with your best bud at a Buffalo Wild Wings who just happens to be really super funny. I loved his summation of Twilight (“Two gay guys and a weirdo”) and I’m in total agreement with his request for additional car horns that carry a variety of different purposes. No longer will there be any confusion as to who is being honked at and why, and the feeling of camaraderie and bro-ness will abound on the city streets. He has some great “what would you do” scenarios on hand (He’s right....Dudes really do love that game) and I can’t wait to talk to someone on the phone with whom I don’t want to talk just so I can put to use Benjamin’s tips for how to get off the phone.
The last 20 minutes of the album are spent with Benjamin seated at a piano. He’s quite talented at the keys and before you have time to roll your eyes at the idea of another “singing comedian,” Benjamin cuts you off at the pass. His songs are short - and I mean short - and benefit from their brevity. He gets in, tells the joke, and then moves on to the next. His dissection of Timbaland and explanation of how every song is the same wouldn’t work nearly as well without the piano accompaniment and it’s a solid segment of his time on stage.
My only complaint about the project is on the CD/DVD combo. I wish the DVD came with the full one-hour version as is on the CD. Instead, the version that is included (not to mention a couple of other bonus videos) is the 22-minute half-hour broadcast version. But, considering that the downside is the fact I wanted more, that’s saying something and is really a compliment to Benjamin and his comedy. I just wanted more hang time with my new friend. You may call him Owen or Benjamin but his real friends know him by his secret name: Maricón.