Friday, May 22, 2015

Tony Sam's "Scaredy Cat"

When it comes to comedy, there’s no right or wrong approach. Some, like Carlin, have become renowned for their ingenious wordplay. Others, like Seinfeld and Gaffigan, have perfected the art of observation. Then there are comedians like C.K. and Brody whose craft is rooted strongly in a brilliantly-crafted story. 

And then you have Tony Sam, whose latest album “Scaredy Cat” wonderfully displays that he has decided to embrace the simple tactic of…just having a good time.

It works. 

That’s not to say that Sam isn’t a great storyteller (he is, as is displayed by the epic retelling of the time he was arrested for drunk driving - not in a car - and how he decided to make the most of the adventure) and if you doubt his observational skills, then I present as evidence his riffs on men with beardy beards and the real reason homeless people don’t want your restaurant leftovers.

Sam gleefully adds a touch of fun and whimsy to each of his bits, all of them accentuated by his distinct vocal tone and cadence. His voice reminded me of Will Forte cranked to 11 but Sam put it better when he described it as the love-child voice-baby of Homer Simpson and Kermit the Frog. 

Needless to say, his voice hasn’t exactly helped his cause when it comes to suave seduction (and Sam has a few hilarious war stories to offer as proof). When it comes to comedy, however, it’s a blessing in disguise. “La Voz” serves to heighten his often-manic tales of pregnancy scares (or, as women probably refer to them, “near miracles”), giant bee attacks (wait…what exactly are you saying?), and his impression of his mother. 

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Sam (or “T-Bone,” as he likes to refer to himself) has a more-than-slightly skewed outlook on life which is probably why he’s doing much better at stand-up than he did when he was working at a fancy cake shop (a bakery so fancy, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a cake shoppe). Only when you’re dealing with the general public do you have to put up with complaints about cakes personalized for robots (oops) or children crying about too much fudge (Really? Who complains about too much fudge?)

The title of this project is fitting, as Sam shares with us a number of things that frighten him. It’s not strange that he suffers from arachnophobia but what does set him apart is how it affects his Spider-Man viewing habits (he doesn’t watch) and his thoughts on a better plot for the webslinger (just a guy with a bag of spiders, throwing them at people). Other things that give him the jitters include today’s modern day in-your-face gum commercials and the Gorton’s Fisherman who, apparently, also dabbles in chemistry.

Scaredy Cat” is a fun CD that I enjoyed from beginning to end each time I listened.  You’re sure to have a good time as well, unless perhaps you’re seated in the front row with your arms crossed. In that case, just….just stop it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cristela Alonzo's "Some of the Hits"




Hear that? That’s me inhaling a much-needed breath of fresh air followed by a contented sigh of relief courtesy of Cristela Alonzo’s CD “Some of the Hits.”

So many times comedians of an ethnicity other than white or black tend to use their heritage as a crutch, presenting us with an act filled with either hackneyed impressions of screaming relatives  for 50 minutes (I’m looking at you, Margaret Cho and Dat Phan) or delving so deeply into their own experience that they alienate any listener who doesn’t speak the same language (Hi, George Lopez. And the 43% of your act that flies over the heads of anyone who isn’t fluent in Spanish)

“Some of the Hits” lands right where it should. Yes, Alonzo is a Mexican-American who grew up in Texas but that doesn’t define who she is as a person - or as a comedian - and your name doesn’t have to end in a vowel to enjoy every moment of the experience. Rather than focus on her Latina roots, Alonzo has instead opted to focus on being a funny storyteller first and foremost. 

I know. Go figure, right?

It seems like such an obvious path, especially for someone working as a comedian, but for some reason so many other comics who have come before Alonzo seem to have taken their eye off the prize. With her debut project, Alonzo shows just how it should be done with anecdotes and humor relatable to anyone within earshot.

Metaphors are strong weapons in Alonzo’s comedy arsenal and the pictures she paints perfectly encapsulate the feelings she’s trying to get across. She explains why checking out of a hotel can sometimes make her feel like The Bachelor and her comparison of dating a guy who doesn’t have his life together to being a fan of a bad sports team hits the target dead-center.

Alonzo’s experiences aren’t unlike anyone else’s and her observations let everyone in on the joke. When she explains how expiration dates on milk reflect your financial situation, everyone knew exactly what she was talking about and I had to give my wife a side-eye glance when Alonzo shared how women love to brag about how much they didn’t spend on clothes. 

Particularly fun are Alonzo’s ruminations on why you shouldn’t get high if your life sucks (but you should get drunk), who really answers the phone when you call the referral numbers on her résumé, why the day after Halloween is the real holiday, and what would happen if the Taken movies happened in real-life and we had to depend on our actual fathers to come to our rescue.

From relationships to trying to stay in shape to the true meaning behind nicknames, Alonzo covers it all from her fun, unique perspective with a smile in her voice. She’s having fun and as a result, we are too.