Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Andy Kindler's "I Wish I Was Bitter"

First thing’s first: The “new” release from Andy Kindler, “I Wish I Was Bitter(Yes, he’s well aware that title isn’t grammatically correct, but he’s edgy like that) was originally recorded back in 2003 and has only just recently been made available to download for the first time. Aside from the occasional references to “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy(Wow, I totally forgot about that show) and “Whoopi” (Yep. Forgot about that one, too), the disc holds up pretty well. Then again, bitterness never really goes out of fashion.

If you take a bucket of that bitterness, season it with a generous helping of jealousy, remove any inkling of self-confidence or bridge-burning self-awareness, coupled with a heaping spoonful of malice toward TV executives, then you’ve just got an angry guy who never made it as big as he thought he would. Or should. But you add in a witty sense of biting humor that holds no punches and keeps the audience on its toes, then my friend you have Andy Kindler.

Kindler never made it big as a comic (at least not as of this taping) and he has some strong words for those who did. Carrot Top, Margaret Cho, Lorne Michaels, Dennis Miller, the cast of The George Lopez Show, Wayne Brady, and Jim Belushi (Oh, that Jim Belushi) all find themselves in Kindler’s crosshairs. As he struggles to comprehend what these people have that he doesn’t, Kindler lashes out at them and doesn’t hold back. Poor Belushi finds himself getting the brunt of Kindler’s ire, especially when we try to break down his TV deal using the five Ws (and one H) of investigative journalism. You almost feel bad for the guy and maybe you would if you weren’t so busy laughing at Kindler’s exasperated furor.

People who live outside the entertainment world may find that this CD has a tendency to fly over their heads from time to time. Kindler jokes that he isn’t a comedian for a mainstream audience and he has a point. I don’t know how many people without a foot in the industry will connect with his jokes about pilot season and collecting residuals, but for those of us who’ve dabbled in - and around - the entertainment world (or maybe just watch shows like Episodes, Louie, or Maron), then there are a lot of wink-winks and nudge-nudges to enjoy here. 

When Kindler strays from his insider material, the laughs come just as strong. I loved his cell phone being set to “samba,” his impressions of the Frankenstein monster performing hacky comedy and morning zoo radio, and most of all his dissection of the old Superman television show and the voiceover announcer who clearly wasn’t pleased with his career path. It’s a brilliant bit that Kindler may or may not be happy knowing would appeal to a wide audience.

One of the fun things about listening to an album in 2014 that was recorded in 2003 is having the gift of hindsight. It’s entertaining hearing Kindler rail on “Last Comic Standing” knowing that seven years later he would be on the show as a judge (but, in fairness, the show had morphed into a completely different concept by that time. Less reality show and more comedian-y). Yes, more than a few bits here are directed at industry movers and shakers, telling them why they should hire him (and also pointing out when they shouldn’t)  but - as time eventually went on to prove - it worked. Kindler calls “Last Comic Standing” the worst thing that could ever possibly happen to comedians and seven years later, he’s a judge on the show. It’s a tactic I never would have thought of, but apparently it works. 

Hey, Spielberg. Guess what? You suck donkey.

Now all I have to do is wait until 2021 and I’ll be golden. Indiana Jones Part 6 here I come!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jim Norton's "American Degenerate"

Jim Norton is back with a new album, “American Degenerate,” and if you’re already familiar with his style of comedy then you know exactly what to expect: A CD packed with great stories that sometimes push the envelope, are sometimes cringe-worthy, and are always funny. 

Norton doesn’t disappoint.

Once again we’re treated to a vast assortment of “could only happen to him” stories that make us laugh and wince simultaneously. Norton doesn’t merely have an odd encounter with the man seated next to him on an airplane; Norton finds himself swept away by the stranger’s man-scent in what turns out to be  slightly homoerotic and more-than-slightly humiliating for the both of them. Likewise, as if it wasn’t already a major turn-off that Norton has to wear a sleep apnea mask that leaves him looking like Bane In Bed, thanks to his facial skeletal structure he has to opt for an even more-demeaning optional accessory.

That’s just the way things seem to go for Norton. He’s a human magnet that attracts all things Murphy’s Law. You can’t help but feel bad for him when not only does the Hot Girl With The Incredible Ass (that Norton is more than happy to describe in great detail) catch him ogling her backside at the gym…she also hears him doing it (Yep. That can happen). His attempt to flirt with a flight attendant is mistaken for a bomb threat and no matter what time of day he decides to work out, that creepy old naked dude is going to be there. Right there. Patpatpatpatpatpatpat.

Lest you think Norton is totally innocent, he freely reveals he’s more devious than his appearance (That of every guy on the jury in 1955) may first imply. He has an impressive Gag Peanut Brittle Can metaphor that is lost on a good portion of the crowd and if you ever wondered just how you can turn a standard massage into one with a “happy ending,” well…Norton’s got you covered. In a step-by-step explanation that leaves no possibility unexplored, he takes us through the best way to bump your odds that is just as well plotted out as a plan to rob a Vegas casino. Danny Ocean would be proud.

This, of course, leads to Norton’s brilliant commentary on the whole John Travolta/massage scandal. He’s not saying that Travolta is gay or guilty of the charges brought upon him… but “it don’t look good.” Norton isn’t just speculating, he’s talking from experience. He believes the claims of those suing Travolta (Even though he thinks they’re ridiculous for doing so) mostly because he’s tried each of the moves Travolta is accused of doing during sessions of his own.

Norton is unapologetic and stands by his claims, especially when it comes to people who find themselves offended by comedy. He has a point when he claims that comedy is the only art form where people feel they have to agree with and/or approve of it. Although he understands why comedians like Tracy Morgan and Daniel Tosh recently apologized for…well, basically doing what comedians are supposed to do, Norton holds fast to the stance that they shouldn’t have had to do it. I wholeheartedly agree. He may be an American Degenerate, but Norton is an American Degenerate with a helluva point.