Friday, September 27, 2013

Patrice O'Neal's "Unreleased"



Man, it’s good to hear Patrice O’Neal again.

Unreleased” features (mostly) brand new material that until now hadn’t been shared with the general public. This is the third album to drop since O’Neal’s passing (If you count “Better Than You,” the 20-minute EP that came out last year and is also included on this CD) and is yet another reminder of what an amazing talent we lost. Once again we get to see what a naturally funny man he was. It came so easily, so effortlessly, one hilarious line after another flowed from him and not even he was able to contain it.

If you’re familiar with O’Neal’s style of comedy, you know he’s not exactly ABC Family material. At the same time, though, his comedy doesn’t feel dirty. When you listen to a Jim Norton CD, for example, you may feel like you need a shower afterwards. A long, long shower. O’Neal doesn’t leave you with that feeling because he was so light-hearted in his approach. The way his voice squeaked with laughter as he uttered the most ridiculously graphic sentences gave his blue humor a light-hearted feel that took away any mean-spirited bite that might have been there if someone else uttered the exact same lines (Like the YouTube-r who recently landed himself in the spotlight for flat-out stealing material from O’Neal - and other comics. He’s repeating O’Neal’s comedy verbatim and totally missing the mark, only proving how much of a comedic presence he’s not, especially compared to O’Neal).

Not even three minutes into the album, O’Neal is already playing with the audience, taking on various people before they have a chance to get to him, and it’s a lot of fun. He thrives on interaction and as he sets aside his prepared material on Washington DC to instead deal with a man in the crowd from the UK and his uncircumcised penis, you can’t help but get swept up in the fun.

To be honest, I don’t even know if O’Neal has prepared material when he takes the stage. I’m sure he does, but you never get the feeling that he’s hitting points A, B, and C on the pre-arranged list in his head. Everything has an organic and natural effusion and O’Neal easily dances from one topic to the next so smoothly, you don’t even notice it happening. He playfully taunts a chicken finger-eating woman in the crowd who - at first - seems a formidable opponent, never backing down from his jibes and throwing some of her own back at him. But, like a cat playing with an injured mouse before going in for the kill, it is O’Neal who will have the last word. When it is finally revealed the woman is a mother of five, well...that’s all she wrote.

O’Neal really loved what he did and you can hear in his voice the pleasure he took in entertaining people. Whether he’s explaining how a good relationship is like a car accident or giving a young bull tips on dealing with women, you know that no matter where O’Neal takes things or how far he pushes the envelope, when we get there we’re all gonna be laughing. 

Thanks to CDs like this one, we’ll continue laughing for a long, long time.


Joe DeRosa's "You Will Die"



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.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Pete Correale's "Give It A Rest"



Maybe it’s me, but when I listen to Pete Correale, I hear Bill Burr. Like, the New York version of Bill Burr. Quickly perturbed, quick to raise his voice, and funnier the more riled up he gets, it’s easy to hear the resemblance (not to mention the timbre and tonality of their voices are quite similar). The comparison shouldn’t be interpreted as a negative. As a big fan of Burr, it’s quite the opposite. If I tell you a movie reminds me of a Pegg/Frost/Wright collaboration, then you should most definitely see that movie. Likewise, if you enjoy Burr’s humor and comedic sensibility, you should most definitely snatch up a copy of Correale’s “Give It A Rest.”

The CD begins with an introduction from Jim Breuer that, although some may find enjoyable to hear, I found unnecessary mostly because Correale truly is a funny guy. I don’t need a testimonial from anyone telling me what I’m chuckling at is funny; my laughter is all the proof I need. From the very first bit you know you’re in good hands and for the next 60 minutes it’s nothing but laughs all the way.

There are a number of things, most of them inconsequential, that get Correale riled up and because he’s sweating the little things, the humor is amplified. I enjoyed listening to him get bent out of shape as he shops for a new mattress (and you have to admit, that whole situation is a little weird), receives a pet-themed Christmas card from a friend, and questions the morality of placing a Tot Finder fire sticker on his own bedroom window.

Correale has a confident and secure stage presence yet never comes across as condescending or better than the next guy. He’s just a regular Joe trying to figure out why it’s such a bad thing if he misidentifies someone’s race (“alligators/crocodiles”) and who cares if he can’t hang out with his buddy and not have a beer? He doesn’t understand why anyone would want to die doing something they love and why are we sweating the money America owes to China when we all know we’re never gonna pay it back? The deeper we delve into these topics, the richer the comedy becomes.

As much as he can’t understand why people get themselves so worked up about losing their cat, Correale is more than willing to lose a little bit of sleep as he enthusiastically ponders Tom Brady and his extreme luck, explains why we should all be grateful dogs can’t talk, and questions why we still announce smoking isn’t allowed on planes.

The album ends with a bonus track that includes some bits Correale claims the producer didn’t think were funny enough to include with the rest of his set. I have to side with the comedian on this one. His thoughts on dolphins and horses are solid, as equally funny as the rest of his act, and I’m glad they didn’t get left behind. All in all, this is a great CD that deserves to be included in the library of anyone who loves to laugh.


Bob Saget's "That's What I'm Talkin' About"



There isn't a lot my pal Nick Vitto and I disagree on. We both love film and comedy. We love Spielberg, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons and can talk about them for hours (Ask my wife, who has on more than one occasion listened to us ramble about such topics like a couple of pros). When we do disagree, although it never turns heated or argumentative, we couldn't disagree more. The two points of contention on which there is no middle ground are the Ernest movies and Bob Saget. Nick loves 'em. I opposite of love 'em. 

And so, when it came to reviewing Bob Saget's "That's What I'm Talkin' About," I jokingly mentioned to Nick that he should write the review, since there's no way I was going to write anything favorable (I listened, and I was right). Nick happily accepted the challenge and I present to you his review. Regardless of where you stand on the whole Saget/Ernest thing, I think you'll like reading Nick's thoughts. I did. You can hear more from Nick by following him on Twitter or stalking him on Facebook.

---

Unless you’ve been in a coma since the mid 90’s, before Michelle Tanner fell off a horse and lost her memory in the season finale of Full House, then everyone should know by now that Bob Saget’s standup routine has become synonymous with the lowest form of filth. It’s unbelievably tasteless, and Bob Saget knows this better than anyone. 

He’s also well aware of the fact that for eight, yes, EIGHT seasons he played an uptight, neat-freak father who was so schmaltzy that it made just about every TV critic puke. Not to mention his side job as the high-pitched-talking host of the original America’s Funniest Home Videos. The name Bob Saget had become a punch line. But when Bob was no longer obligated to be ABC’s good natured dad, it was time for him to spread his wings. But little did most of us know that those wings were covered with poop and sex jokes.

In 2007, Bob released a one-hour HBO special, “That Ain’t Right.” It featured Bob in all his Saget-ness. Despite his junior-high rapid fire gutter jokes, he admirably took plenty of shots at himself and the laughable image that made him famous in the 90’s. One stand out bit was a song he performed called “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay,” sung to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” He defends his character’s sexual orientation while surfacing many new details from behind the scenes of Full House that we never wanted to know about – “I never slept with Dave Coulier, but Kimmy Gibbler got it this way.”  This angle is what makes Saget so fun to watch as a comic. There’s no getting around who he was known for, and he wants to be the first to laugh at himself while dragging his own name deeper through the mud. It’s a twisted act and voice he’s developed, but he owns it.

Six years later Bob has released a new one-hour special featured on Showtime, “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About.” Bob has aged sort of like a fine wine, that’s been chilling in a urinal full of ice. It starts off exactly where he left off, stating, “I don’t want to offend anybody, I want to offend everybody.” He’s also well aware that since his last special, people who grew up watching him are adults now, and forewarns the audience; “Oh, I grew up watching you.” “Good, cause now you’re gonna go down watching me.”

His rapport with the audience is actually one of the most sincerest I’ve seen from any comic and is one of the funnier nuances of this performance. I believe I counted at least four fist bumps with audience members in the front row. And he hasn’t forgotten about his fans in the back rows either: “What’s your name, bro?” “J-Bone” [Bob’s eyes widen as if he were about to be hit by a train] “Where the f*** am I?” But Bob knows exactly where he is and what his audience wants to hear him say as he caters to their every need. He feeds off this young and drunk college crowd adding to his endless energy of rant-style joke telling.

What Bob may lack in tightly structured joke telling and writing, he makes up for it with a great ability to tell twisted stories of his life. I mean, if you’re on a show with a big cast like Full House for eight years, you’re bound to have at least a few amusing anecdotes. He doesn’t disappoint, as he tells a horrendous story of about an episode they did, that I remember far too well, with a donkey that kept getting an erection on set. In the episode the donkey’s name was Shorty, but off camera Bob called him “Peppermill.” Do the math. Another great story is called “John Stamos and The 8 X 10.” It involves Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier and Bob’s nephew as they decide to take a trip to Vegas. Let’s just say it involves a naked Coulier and Stamos’ tongue. Don’t do the math on that one yet. Just give it a listen if you’re so inclined.

The last part of the show is Bob’s infamous song singing time. He does about five songs, most of which are rather somber sounding, but filled with plenty of dirty lyrics to satisfy. A standout that will remain stuck in your head for most of the day, is the upbeat, “Butt Plug Made of Leather.” All of these songs are fine musical comedy additions, but none of them could top his swan song, “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay,” featured as the final bit in his previous special.

Bob Saget is that friends’ dad who is more immature than you are, but you still secretly want to be just like him when you become a dad. It’s truly amazing how young at heart and upbeat he remains despite all the personal tragedies he’s had to deal with in his life. But for those in need of a break from high society for an hour, there’s no better way to spend it than listening to some solid poop and wiener jokes heavily featured in “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About,” which is now available on Netflix Instant. You can shrug him off if it’s just not your kind of humor, but don’t forget, “everywhere you look” Bob Saget “is waiting to carry you home.” Those words are truer than I’d like them to be.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moshe Kasher's "Live in Oakland"



Moshe Kasher is “Live in Oakland” for his latest release and you’re bound to enjoy it whether you’re Christian, Jewish, straight, gay, or leprechaun (which, he explains, is pretty much the same thing as being Jewish). He begins the show with a disclaimer appropriate for the beginning of any comedy show: Basically, if you don’t have a sense of humor, then go home. 

Here, here.

The evening begins with a bit on Christians that, as a Christian, I found especially funny - cliche that it is - because it’s true. Can you really call being around other Christians for all eternity the definition of heaven? And now that we're talking about the “prizes” we get in Heaven, it would be nice to know there’s more than just a multi-stringed instrument waiting for us. 

When it comes to judging a book by its cover, Kasher is more than aware of what his cover looks like and the image he projects. Despite his clothing choices he’s not gay and despite the spectacles he’s sporting, they’ve never raped anyone. He has the kind of stature that incites people in Ireland to point and laugh and although he once started a fight the most impotently Jew-y way possible, he still came out the victor so...you know...just be careful. 

You can’t spend any time in New York City and not walk away with a fun story or two and Kasher is no different. His tale of being stuck on a subway car when an impromptu Rastafarian celebration breaks out is a lot of fun and when he is accused for being impolite for not taking part, the points he raises are hard to refute. 

Speaking of annoying people with dreadlocks, how about those hippies? Yes, Kasher has a few words for you as well, my Jim Morrison-worshipping friends. And before you raise your voices to protest Kasher’s revelations about the true resting ground of the overrated front man from The Doors or the perfect place to hide something from a hippie, may I please direct your attention to the disclaimer at the beginning of the CD?

Confident without being cocky, Kasher is not afraid to take on his detractors. The heckler who really knows her way around a pregnancy test probably should have thought twice before thinking she could best Kasher and as he reads actual hate-filled comments left on one of his YouTube videos, it’s hard to not buy into the theory that the youth of today are going to make the earth explode tomorrow.

With a 50-minute running time, the album is just the right length. Kasher brings a generous amount of good laughs without ever wearing out his welcome. He’s just as willing to point a finger at others (who yells “next” at a comedy show?) as he is himself (a bout of food poisoning brought to light an unexpected skill) and when everyone is fair game, everyone is free to laugh.