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.

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