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.