Saturday, May 24, 2014

Steve Byrne's "Champion"

Steve Byrne is back with the new album “Champion” and it’s a pretty fitting title. He’s at the top of his game - he has been for a while - and this project is another solid reason why. He’s always thrived at tackling controversial topics and it’s nice to see he hasn’t lost his bite. In fact, he may even have had his teeth sharpened. 

Back in 2010 his CD “The Byrne Identity” made my Best-of-the-Year list and I called his bit “Stereotypes to Music” the best track of the year. This time around Byrne combines racial quirks with gender generalizations on “Different Kinds of Women” and it’s another slam dunk. Byrne doesn’t punch you in the face with his comedy. He’s more of a sniper in that he goes in, makes the hit you never saw coming, and leaves the scene of the crime unscathed. It’s really quite impressive. He still gets occasional groans from the audience when his shots land below the belt, but you’re never left with that “dirty” feeling that often comes with material that pushes the line. Unlike the time Byrne was accosted by his hotel room plumbing fixtures, you won’t feel the need to take a shower afterward.

One of the reasons Byrne is able to pull off what he does so cleanly is that he’s not perpetuating stereotypes, he’s simply trying to explain and/or understand them. Yes, Asians do drive slowly, but then again if you were dropped off in the middle of Japan trying to make out directions on roadway markers that look like nothing more than “#” signs to you, you might not be Tokyo Drifting at top speed, either. 

Byrne is fearless, taking racial profiling by the horns. There’s no harm in stating black people are  fast…as long as we admit there are certain instances where they’re slow, too. Byrne has a pretty solid theory on the real reason cops tend to pull over black guys and as a bonus he suggests a plan on how they can walk away from the incident with no further hassle. If your  White Guilt Spidey Sense is tingling and you believe there’s no truth to stereotypes, Byrne offers a four-word counterpoint: “Pet the pit bull.”

Looking for some hilariously fresh material on the subject of women and relationships? Byrne is the comedian for you. He cleverly dances through the minefield of dating and marriage, actually triggering some of the pressure plates without receiving so much as a scratch. Nothing in his marriage seems off-limits as he gleefully exploits arguments, the fact that he hates dining out with his spouse, and the most emasculating thing that can happen when punching a wall during an argument. He offers unsolicited relationship predictions of people sitting in the audience and already has his revenge planned should his wife ever decide to cut off his penis while he sleeps. 

No one (or thing) is safe from Byrne’s gaze. He confidently states that he doesn’t care about the earth or the ocean and freely admits he would not come to your rescue if you were being accosted by an AIDS-ridden monkey. He makes judgments on what fat girls are doing in the bathroom and if the guy you’re with is being super chivalrous, there may be a less-than-noble reason for that (in the form of a Hawaii-shaped stain). Byrne explains that, although boys and girls both dream of getting a ring one day, they are two very different dreams and he exposes retirement communities for the pre-pearly gates spring breaks they really are. 

He does all of this - and more - and has us laughing the entire time. Not only does he do it well…he does it like a champion.

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