I lived in Chicago for a brief time and while I was there, I was dirt poor. Naturally, this led me to seek out bargains (thanks, Craigslist!) and some of the bargains I found were sneak previews of movies (thanks, Hollywood!). For those who aren’t fortunate enough to live in a metropolitan city where this happens on a regular basis, movie studios have free - free! - screenings of movies to gauge audience reactions, see what works, or maybe just get a little bit of buzz going. And so one July evening I found myself in a packed movie theater to watch a free screening of a movie most people weren’t familiar with at the time: Wedding Crashers.
There are few sounds like a packed theater full of people not just laughing, but stupid laughing. I attended the event alone but for a short time all of us there were connected. It was an incredible evening and I found myself telling everyone I knew about “this hilarious movie I just saw.” I told friends, family, and even a handful of strangers while I was waiting in line at the Farmer’s Market. I couldn’t help myself. People needed to know how funny this movie was.
I had a similar reaction after listening to Cy Amundson’s “Lovesick in Toledo.” I finished listening to 50 of the funniest minutes I’d heard in a long while and my immediate thought was, “I can’t wait to tell people about this one.” So maybe I should stop yammering about Wedding Crashers and get to it.
From the very first joke on the very first track, Amundson sets the tone for what’s to come: Things are going to be a little bit wrong (how baby-sitting his niece accidentally caused him to be creepy) but a lot of bit hilarious (he could say something to make it a lot worse for those around him).
Amundson seems to magnetically attract awkward situations which, of course, only makes things better for us. You’ll find yourself laughing through teeth that are clenched empathetically as he recounts the time he scalded his junk with hot tea and wondering how things could possible get worse as he tries to ease the tension in the room with a silly joke told to the wrong person.
‘Lovesick in Toledo” is one of those rare CDs that comes along every once in a while where every track is my favorite. Amundson’s theory about the mysterious attraction white trash people have for Looney Tunes characters couldn’t be more accurate and his younger brother being chosen as the Golden Child has prompted the writing of a most imaginative will with very specific parameters.
This wouldn’t be the first time Amundson has toyed around with official, supposed-to-be serious documentation. Take for example the time he pranked his nephew by taking it upon himself to rewrite his entrance application letter to Northwestern University. Amundson knows his way around a prank and just the fact that he knows taxidermist’s have a “throwaway pile” should be reason enough to make anyone think twice about getting on his bad side.
When his friend Zach declares he and his girlfriend are trying to have a baby, Amundson has just cause to be a little hesitant with his support (especially considering the couple’s recent track record with kittens). It sparks one of my favorite bits on the album, second only to Amundson’s riotous impression of every 4th-grade girls basketball game ever. It had me in tears each time I listened.
The track that inspires the album title is Amundson’s love letter to Toledo (and by “love letter” I mean “a series of reasons to never visit Toledo"). My dad is a boxing coach and when I was growing up in Indiana we would take frequent trips to boxing tournaments to the Ohio city, so I can vouch for all Amundson has to say. It’s very possible we ate at the same Waffle House and experienced the same cheery customer service. My favorite line in the bit comes when Amundson mentions how each state has a “state bird” and suggests one for Toledo if cities did the same thing: “A raccoon with ringworm all over its face.”
This project made me laugh and it made me laugh a lot. Just like the time I was in Chicago, I want everyone to laugh like I did. I want everyone to experience the same thing I did and for 50 minutes forget about everything around them and just laugh. Forget about what happened at work this week or what needs to happen at home and instead just focus on camouflage lingerie and the portion size of greasy spoon hash browns. Let go and let yourself get a little “Lovesick.”