Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sinbad's "Make Me Wanna Holla"

A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend Gabe on the phone and excitedly told him I had just received my preview copy of the new Sinbad album for review. “Really?” he asked, with the flat tone of a guy who isn’t impressed.

“Yeah!” I said excitedly, visions of past Sinbad albums dancing in my head. I’m well-aware that Sinbad has become a punchline of sorts in the comedy world, mostly I assume because of the outfits he wore in past specials that seemed to be constructed of multi-colored Hefty bags. Although his wardrobe has become dated, I know a lot of people who look back on those past recordings fondly, reminiscing about how much they made them laugh. They made me laugh, too, and as a result I was looking forward to this new release. 

“Sinbad?” Gabe asked and then added, “That can’t be good.”

I was genuinely surprised. “What? Why not? I’m excited!”

“Really?” Gabe muttered, “You think? It’s been too long.”

“But he was so funny,” I countered, “There’s no way he all of a sudden can’t be funny.”

“I don’t know, man, I don’t see how it can be any good.”

I could hear in Gabe’s voice that he felt bad for me. He was convinced this new project, “Make Me Wanna Holla," was going to disappoint and his heart went out to the poor boy with too much optimism. 

The good news is, it’s not the train wreck Gabe thought it would be. The bad news is….it ain’t Brain Damaged, either.

I remember Sinbad as a happy-go-lucky guy who paced the stage with a smile and a magnetic sense of joy. He still has that in a sense, but this is an older version of Sinbad and he doesn’t wear cranky cynicism well. When he touches on childhood, kindergarten, and banters back and forth with the 15-year old boy in the audience, the spark is still there. When he takes on politics and the economic system of Detroit, he swaps funny for angry, and it just feels….off. 

Bill Cosby has grown disgruntled with age but has figured out how to work that into his persona. David Letterman has morphed into an old grump but he doesn’t care and it somehow adds to his edge. Sinbad as an angry older guy just…sounds like an angry older guy.

Sinbad tries to capture the energy of his younger days but his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. And hearing Sinbad scream the “n” word just doesn’t sit right. I’m not opposed to someone morphing from who they used to be, but this change doesn’t feel sincere. This is 6’5” Sinbad trying desperately to stay relevant and squeeze himself into a suit tailored to 5’2” Kevin Hart. Please, Sinbad, go back to the clothes you’re comfortable in. They may be out style, but they brought out the best in you. 

There are a few bonus tracks that only add to the confusion. Without warning, a band and choir appear from nowhere and suddenly we’re in church. It’s not just a left turn, but a hard left turn that comes out of nowhere. One minute Sinbad is ruminating on white people being lost in a bad black neighborhood and the next we’re singing along to the Rich Mullins song, “Awesome God.” The CD ends with what is basically a mini-revival tent service, complete with a revival tent Baptist comedian. It’s a gesture I appreciated but it really felt out of place on a comedy album. 

This wasn't the grand slam I hoped it would be but I haven’t lost faith in you, Sinbad. I’ll keep believing in you. But, please….please…prove my friend Gabe wrong the next time around.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ian Edwards's "100% Half-Assed"

There are some comedians I’ve stumbled upon who, as much as I like them, very rarely seem to release projects. The reasons for their void in the annals of comedy can be vast and varied but for a fan, it’s never enough. During a trip to California a few years ago, I went to one of the famous “10 Comedians” shows at The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA. It was there that I was first introduced to comics like Lachlan Patterson (mainstream America was recently introduced to him on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”), Brian Scolaro, and the infuriatingly funny Kirk Fox (infuriating because he's never released a CD).

Add to that wish list the very funny Ian Edwards. He wasn’t at the comedy club during the night in question, but I’ve been fortunate enough to catch him on a number of random TV appearances. Like the aforementioned comics (Patterson and Scolaro both have incredible projects out there, but they’re long overdue for the next round), there’s never been much of an opportunity to take his comedy home and plug it into your iTunes. 

Until now.

“100% Half-Assed” is the debut recording from Team Coco Records and it’s a nice introduction to what I hope is a long string of many more projects to come. Edwards is laid back, approachable, and extremely comfortable on stage. He doesn’t shy away from addressing the crowd and when doing so backfires on him (that couple in the audience most definitely isn’t a couple), he takes it in stride and laughs along at the spontaneity of the moment.

Admittedly, it takes a little while for things to get going. Edwards starts off with bits on identifying Asian ethnicities, growing up poor in Jamaica, and the difference between accidentally getting a girl pregnant and getting a girl pregnant on purpose (SPOILER ALERT: There is none). They’re all fun ideas but there wasn’t much that garnered more than a smirk and a chuckle from me.

About 15 minutes into the album, though, Edwards begins talking about being a vegan and what it’s like to go home and tell your mom you won’t be eating her cooking and we are off. Edwards hits his stride and it’s like a switch was flipped. From that point on he kills it with one solid bit after another, as is proven by the woman in the audience who is laughing so hard, it sounds like she’s being stabbed while falling down a flight of stairs. Edwards is passionate about his convictions (You can tell Jesse Jackson isn’t a good leader because no one ever tried to kill him) and perhaps sometimes his convictions go too far (He is amused when he points out he turned off half the crowd with a story about fictional people he made up solely for a joke) but when you're as funny as Edwards is, you can get away with it.

My personal favorite moments included his explanation of why there is no such thing as a shark attack and his bit where he puts himself into a Bruce Lee movie - on the bad guy’s side - is wonderful. Edwards wraps things up talking about people of blended ethnicities. He marvels at the fact that these people are arguably the most beautiful people in the world…and their parents are always the ugliest people from their respective races. As he gives examples of ugly bi-racial couples who would have attractive babies each one is more over-the-top and hilarious than the last. 

It’s nice to have this project - finally! - from Edwards. Although it takes a few minutes to get the car moving, once we do we’re not stopping for anything. I hope you went to the bathroom before you buckled in, kids, because once we hit the Edwards Comedy Highway there are no rest stops on the agenda.