“Indecent,” the new album from Phil Mazo, is a difficult CD to pin down mostly because Mazo turns on - and off - his likability quotient like someone flipping a switch to test a light bulb. At the outset he comes off a little abrasive, pushing buttons merely for the sake of pushing buttons, and there’s more than one occasion when his punchlines garner simultaneous laughs, groans, and hisses (We’re still hissing? Was there someone in the crowd from the 1880s?).
In the first twenty minutes or so, things just seemed to limp along as Mazo yuks it up with comedic basics like farting in the bathroom, suggestions for new sobriety tests, and the Comedian 101 gag about leaving a Somalian restaurant hungry. When he told the very contrived story about stumbling into a suicide support meeting in a casino just so he could rattle off a series of head-shakingly bad puns, I began to wonder if maybe I wasn’t missing something by not being there in person. Perhaps the joke was that the jokes were intentionally cheesy.
Instead of coming across as a fun-loving comedian, Mazo often seems tired or bored and his lackluster delivery seemed to sap some of the energy. But then the switch was flipped and his Ritalin (which, as a side note, is the only kind of tablet he’d ever give a child) kicked in. Out of nowhere Mazo came to life. As soon as the puns were out of his system it was as if he’d shed his skin and was a brand new person. I heard it in his voice as an energy and enthusiasm came into his storytelling and it was genuinely as if I was listening to an entirely different project.
Indeed, when Mazo comes to life, so does his material. He loses the “I’m gonna be an edgy comic” persona and instead focuses on telling funny anecdotes. It works. For a shining moment, it really works. His bit on taking a black friend to a Cracker Barrel is a lot of fun as is his mistaking the word “Samoan” not as a nationality or race, but as a synonym for “obese.” Mazo has a bit on suggestions for new collective nouns for groups of people and it is truly inspired.
Inevitably, however, the Ritalin must run its course, and by the end of the CD we’re back to where we started. I don’t know what happened for that brief magical moment in the middle of his set that seemed to click everything into place, but if Mazo could have held onto that for just a bit longer, it would have put a whole new spin on the project.
In the first half of the CD I noticed a woman in the crowd talking incessantly. It wasn’t clear if she was talking to her friends at her table or trying to comment back to Mazo, but her presence was very distracting. Perhaps she just happened to be close to an audience microphone and Mazo couldn’t hear her on the stage but I was surprised that he didn’t say something - anything - to get her to shut up. Her yammering prevented me from enjoying the experience as there were times I found it hard to concentrate on Mazo because I was so focused on how much I wanted her to choke on her chicken fingers. If you're curious about this CD and would like to try out a few of the tracks before jumping into the water, I highly recommend “Intolerant (Travel)” and “Indigenous (Stereotypes).”