Thursday, December 5, 2013

John Tole's "Reign in Laughs"

On his CD “Reign in Laughs,” John Tole does his best to do just what the album title promises. He tries a variety of different comedy styles - blue, surreal, bait-and-switch, blue, over-the-top, blue, observational, and blue - and it may be because he throws in so many styles that it never quite clicked with me.

Tole seems to switch his batting stance so often, it’s no wonder that I never felt able to settle in as a listener. And, in what becomes a predictable pattern, when the laughs don’t seem big enough or Tole feels unsure where to go next, things take a sudden left turn into the gutter. No matter what it is Tole is ranting about, he finds a way to shoehorn it into a joke about masturbation and bodily fluids. 

When it comes to blue humor, I suppose I’m a little picky. As long as it makes me laugh, I’m good. When it doesn’t, though, it just seems...dirty. Such is the case, here. And, when partnered with a premise that is a little hard to follow (Note the odd silence of the audience when Tole declares, “That’s the porn voice of the girl who doesn’t make the porn audition where there is no job to get.” OK, what?), it doesn’t always result in the biggest reaction.

There are times when Tole is really on to something. Take for instance the phrase “You’re my everything” that is often uttered by those in love. It seems like a great launching pad for a bit but instead Tole decides to go random with an “Oh yea? I’m you’re everything? Well what about...” diatribe that inexplicably includes nose zits and burrito farts that completely abandons his original point for what seems to be no other reason than to see how gross he can be. Like going blue, you can do gross humor as long as it’s part of/assists the punchline, but when you go for the gross-out groan and use that as the punchline, I tune out.

At one point, Tole brings the crowd along for a multi-person impression of The Internet that is simultaneously funny, clever, and a nice commentary on the current state of pop culture. I really enjoyed it and felt that’s when Tole really shined. If more of his material was grounded in similar territory, I think the laughs would really be reined in.

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