Craig Ferguson’s “I’m Here To Help”

Allow me to start things off by admitting I love Craig Ferguson, so this review may be a bit biased (What can I say? It’s his own fault for consistently cracking me up). I watch his late night show with faithful regularity and there’s hardly a comment, aside, or mumble that is uttered that doesn’t strike me as hilarious. His brash confidence in not having a reason to be confident, his unrestrained self-deprecation, and his disdain not only for the Hollywood machine but for those who keep it going… I love it all. Even his intolerance for the audience itself, which one might assume would come across as off-putting or condescending, is funny. He’s mastered the art of sincere insincerity (or is it the other way around?) and I confess that, in my eyes, he can do no wrong. 
It therefore comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed his newest offering, “I’m Here to Help.” For someone who always wishes his opening monologue on TV would go longer, this CD is just what I was hoping it would be. The running time is a very generous 80 minutes (80 minutes!) and I loved every bit of it. 
I was talking with a friend of mine about Ferguson and although he also finds him funny,  he claims Ferguson’s use of profanity is a turn-off. All I could do was invite him to put on his big boy pants and get over it. Sure, it may be a little jolting at first if you’ve only seen him on TV where his slips of the tongue are dubbed over with foreign phrases like “Oo La La!” but I was too busy laughing at what was being said to worry about the words used to say it. 
Obviously influenced by the likes of Monty Python (a fact Ferguson himself touches on during the special), he approaches comedy with an air of gleeful abandon. Never afraid to commit to the bit and with no concern for looking too silly, Ferguson’s dedication to chasing the laugh is a wonderful thing to witness.
Those familiar with Ferguson’s comedy will not be surprised to find out he touches on topics like fatherhood, kids in general, and addiction. Those familiar with Ferguson’s comedy will also not be surprised to hear it’s still hilarious when he does. No one is safe from his sites and he doesn’t hold back a bit. People who say they have a chocolate addiction are stupid and so are people who claim they have “experimented” with drugs (No you didn’t. You’re not a scientist). And Angelina Jolie is a bitch(You’ll have to hear the bit for yourself to really get what he’s saying).
Interestingly, the sillier Ferguson gets, the more accurate his observations become. Tinky Winky isn’t gay, he’s drunk. The people on “Honey Boo-Boo” really do sound like they’re yodeling underwater. And yes, his impression of Hannibal Lecter is slowly morphing into Mick Jagger. 
What I found particularly genius about Ferguson’s set is it all starts – and ends – with a joke. He’s come for the sole purpose of telling us a joke. That’s right. A joke. He wants to tell us a joke passed on by his pal Drew Carey and then be on his way. But… well… speaking of Drew Carey….
Nearly an hour and a half later, we come full circle. Oh yea, that’s right, he wanted to tell us a joke he heard from Drew. And yes, in case you were wondering, when Ferguson finally gets around to telling us the joke, it is totally worth the wait. The CD begins with a joke and ends with the joke and everything in between is bonus. 

Owen Benjamin’s “High Five Til It Hurts!”

2013 seems to be the Year of the Nice Guy. So far we’ve had releases from the likes of Kevin NealonTom ShillueAl MadrigalDylan Brody, and Pete Holmes. Not only have they all made me laugh, but they seem like genuinely good people and it always makes me happy when good things happen to good people. Carrying on the Nice Guy tradition is Owen Benjamin and his album, “High Five Til It Hurts” and once again words like “likable,” “congenial,” “approachable,” and “friendly” immediately come to mind. 
Benjamin is a lot of fun and his laid-back stage presence is inviting. He’s comfortable to be around and he has an excited eagerness about him that is infectious. He comes across as sincerely grateful to be doing what it is he’s always wanted to do (or at least, to do the thing number three thing he’s always wanted to do) and his excitement carries over into every part of his set.
 At one point, Benjamin compares men to dogs and his way of breaking it down is fresh and accurate. Yes, we’re such dogs that we’ll even watch other guys play “throw the ball” and Benjamin himself could easily be compared to a canine. As a dog person myself, I mean that in the best way possible. Lovable, eager, and happy to please, Benjamin is an extremely tall golden retriever who just happens to occasionally get a shot of bear mace in the face from tiny cowboys.
Listening to this CD isn’t like listening to your average stand-up comedy album. It’s more like hanging out with your best bud at a Buffalo Wild Wings who just happens to be really super funny. I loved his summation of Twilight(“Two gay guys and a weirdo”) and I’m in total agreement with his request for additional car horns that carry a variety of different purposes. No longer will there be any confusion as to who is being honked at and why, and the feeling of camaraderie and bro-ness will abound on the city streets. He has some great “what would you do” scenarios on hand (He’s right….Dudes really do love that game) and I can’t wait to talk to someone on the phone with whom I don’t want to talk just so I can put to use Benjamin’s tips for how to get off the phone.
The last 20 minutes of the album are spent with Benjamin seated at a piano. He’s quite talented at the keys and before you have time to roll your eyes at the idea of another “singing comedian,” Benjamin cuts you off at the pass. His songs are short – and I mean short – and benefit from their brevity. He gets in, tells the joke, and then moves on to the next. His dissection of Timbaland and explanation of how every song is the same wouldn’t work nearly as well without the piano accompaniment and it’s a solid segment of his time on stage. 
My only complaint about the project is on the CD/DVD combo. I wish the DVD came with the full one-hour version as is on the CD. Instead, the version that is included (not to mention a couple of other bonus videos) is the 22-minute half-hour broadcast version. But, considering that the downside is the fact I wanted more, that’s saying something and is really a compliment to Benjamin and his comedy. I just wanted more hang time with  my new friend. You may call him Owen or Benjamin but his real friends know him by his secret name: Maricón.
Wait, what?

Kevin Nealon’s “Whelmed…But Not Overly”

You don’t understand how much I wanted to like Kevin Nealon’s new CD, “Whelmed…But Not Overly.” I’ve always been a fan of Nealon and his gentle, subtle approach to comedy. When he took over Weekend Update duties from Dennis Miller on Saturday Night Live, I recall it being a rough transition for him. He simply wasn’t Dennis Miller and many people who had come to love Miller’s sardonic, head-bobbing outlook on current events seemed irate that Nealon wasn’t Dennis 2.0. While people took to the streets in outrage, I seemed to be in the minority of people who liked Nealon’s contrasting persona. He didn’t take the news quite so seriously. Instead of trying to do what Miller did, Nealon drew from Chevy Chase’s time behind the desk, opting for fewer obscure Chaucer references and instead going with sheer light-hearted silliness. There was also an air of good person-ness that bled through.
Kevin Nealon has that nice guy aura that most celebrities hope they are projecting. He’s one of the few people you see on television or in the movies that you feel is genuinely a Good Guy in real life. I imagine if I ran into him at the grocery store or on the street and, surprised to be bumping into Kevin Nealon!, stumbled through some sort of “Oh my gosh, I’m a huge fan, you’re really funny” mini-rant, he would smile and say “Thanks, I appreciate it,” and I would feel as if he genuinely was thankful and he really did appreciate it.
Which is why I was somewhat crestfallen to not fall in love with his surprisingly appropriately-titled album. What really seemed to stick the knife in my gut and twist it is I think it falls flat because Nealon is a nice guy. There’s no bite, no anger or ill-will or spite that is sometimes so necessary in stand up. Nealon makes some good observations but he doesn’t seem to have an opinion about them one way or another. He just points out observations. It may sound nit-picky but it makes a big difference. 
I think it’s a fair statement to say Jerry Seinfeld wouldn’t be categorized as an “angry comedian.” But, for example, when he observes how small the packages of airplane peanuts are, the humor came when it irked him a bit. I feel if Nealon had a bit on airplane peanuts, he would just happily say they’re small. Again, I may be splitting hairs, but I think it turns out to be a key factor. It’s akin to comedy from Ned Flanders. He’s just too nice.
Another factor that stood out to me was the very-obvious laugh track present throughout much of the album. The producers didn’t seem to attempt to cover their tracks and there were more than a couple of occasions where it was so glaringly obvious, I wondered what they were covering up (maybe an audience that also wanted more?). As Nealon approaches his material on relationships, he mentions that communication is key. And there’s a HUGE roar from the crowd that screamed out, CANNED LAUGHTER. Huh? Why there? That’s not a joke, that’s part of a setup. Why they would sweeten a spot that isn’t even designed to be a punchline is beyond me, but it made me suspicious of every other crowd response.
At the end of the day, I still like Kevin Nealon. I think he’s a Good Guy and I’m glad he’s still working and doing his thing. He seems to be happy and I’m glad for that, too, but when it comes to his standup, I’m whelmed but…well…you know the rest.

Jack Hull’s “The Irreverent (EP)”

The Irreverent EP” by Jack Hull is a bit of a misnomer. Just under 40 minutes long, it’s not really an EP and, truth be told, it’s not all that irreverent. (It should be noted that, although the cover art indicates this is “The Irreverent EP,” it is listed on both Amazon and iTunes as simply “The Irreverent.) Hull has a lot of energy and is committed to his material but it never seems to click into place. Perhaps he’s too committed to the material. Instead of feeling like a loose flow of thoughts, it sometimes comes across as a humorous monologue. Regardless of how the audience reacts (even when they don’t), he barrels on, his delivery often coming across not as a stand-up comedian, but as someone on Saturday Night Livedoing a satirical impression of a stand-up comedian. 
Although it was released in April of 2013, a lot of the material feels dated. It was recorded in 2011 so topics like the death of Osama bin Laden and the Octomom feel stale. It felt as if Hull was using every bit he’s written for the past 10 years, so when he brings up the Michael Richards N-word scandal, Columbine, and the anti-piracy commercials in front of DVDs from the 90s as if they’re still hot topics in the news, it came across as worn-out and “been there, done that.” Hull isn’t breaking new ground and as a result, the laughs are few.
There’s a moment of confounding self-sabotage in the middle of his set where Hull decides to tell a poem. Of course, being a stand-up comic, we’re all expecting a joke, gag, or gimmick but instead we get a suckerpunch. He prefaces it by explaining he wrote it about having to perform his comedy in  “dive bars and shitholes,” inadvertently insulting everyone in attendance. I don’t think that was Hull’s intention, but when the audience suddenly goes quiet, you can tell they felt something. He then recites his downer of a poem in complete seriousness, lamenting how much it sucks having to perform for people in such crappy conditions and a cloud settles over everything. Should we apologize for making him perform? Is he mad that we came? Why are we being scolded?
The poem ends and there’s a brief round of obligatory post-poem applause. You can still feel the awkwardness in the room and Hull lets everyone stew in the silence. And then…out of nowhere… “Another thing I don’t get…why isn’t gay marriage legal?” It’s a weird transition if ever there was a weird transition and I’m not sure Hull realized how long it takes for him to bring the audience back around. Some of them, I think, never returned.

Tom Shillue’s “In Defense of Bullying”

If you like comedy done via storytelling, then the new album from Tom Shillue, “In Defense of Bullying,” is for you. It’s a great example of how to spin a yarn, keep it interesting and relatable, and get some big laughs at the same time. Over the past few months as Shillue has been rolling out his “12 in 12” series, he has shown just how good he is at the long-form approach, proving that good comedy doesn’t have to be a series of foul-mouthed one-liners and offensive insults hurled at the audience. Shillue has taken a page from the Bill Cosby Book of Comedy and instead recounts one childhood adventure after another. There’s no need to come up with silly made-up scenarios and “what if” situations when you have such a rich arsenal of experience from which to draw. Being inducted into The Crap Club, turning in vocabulary assignments that one could only get away with in a pre-9/11 society, and constructing a rumpus room from a failed go-cart are all examples of firsthand accounts that are too good to not share.
Each album in Shillue’s year-long experiment has a theme and this time around, as the title alludes to, it is his theory that bullying isn’t such a bad thing. I tend to agree with Shillue that bullying is a vaccine for life and when he explains that he’s a little tired of how bullying has become such a buzz word, I couldn’t help but agree. That being said, the album isn’t about what side of the issue Shillue stands on; it’s about his experiences growing up that were a result of being bullied (or, in some cases, bullying the bully)
Shillue didn’t grow up with play dates in the park but instead had…The Woods. He learned firsthand that sometimes the best way to confront a bully is to get in the first punch. He also learned the worst way to confront a bully is to not run away after you’ve sucker-punched him. Shillue had to navigate the perils of Boy Scout camp on his own and although his instincts led him astray when it came to whether or not he should bring along his Pillsbury Doughboy doll, they definitely saved the day when it came to his reaction upon the other scouts’ encounter with the toy. The moral of the story, of course, is “Laughter at Boy Scout camp can only mean one thing: Someone is being victimized.”
There is a nice feeling that permeates each of Shillue’s tales of triumph and adventure that gives the entire album a sense of nostalgia. Even though I wasn’t there to experience the Armour Hot Dogs jingle (Yep, those are the real lyrics. I YouTube’d it), the pillow fights with girls in a strange, hot room, or the wonder and majesty of the aforementioned ill-fated Ruggy Buggy, Shillue is able to make me feel like I was. It’s nice, and I’m looking forward to his next installment. It reminds me of the old Steven Wright joke: “I like to reminisce with people I don’t know.” When it comes to Shillue, there’s no one I don’t know with whom I’d rather reminisce.

Chris Hardwick’s “Mandroid”

Mandroid is a fun romp through the mind of self-proclaimed nerd Chris Hardwick that covers a wide variety of topics with the giddy impishness of a kid whose parents have gone out of town for the weekend and left him with free reign over the basement and the 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew being stored therein. His approach is one of snickering deviousness without crossing over into being straight -up malicious. He scolds himself for coming up with what he calls “the dumbest joke ever written” about vampires and their girlfriends’ periods, but he can’t help himself from not going ahead and passing it along to us anyhow.
Hardwick may be the only person in the entertainment world with more jobs than Ryan Seacrest (he hosts a highly-acclaimed podcast, hosts two different chat shows spun off of two already-existing shows, and is a skilled voiceover artist) but it is his standup that I enjoy the most. His comedy gives him the freedom to work without a net and talk freely about his friend’s roomba experience that went horribly wrong, his suggestion for simultaneously battling teen pregnancy and teen obesity (it’s not what you think), and the day he murdered 41 sharks (an incident the no-animal-killing Hardwick found traumatizing, but for people like me with a horrible fear of sharks this may have been the best day ever).
Although I’m a little skeptical of Hardwick’s “nerd” status (I mean, come on. He’s a funny, well-liked, good lookin’ guy who knows how to make a roomful of people laugh. He wouldn’t have lasted a minute in a “King of the Nerds” casting session), he nevertheless takes a strong stance for all things geeky (Not dweeby. There’s a difference. Most notably the fact that dweebs swallow in the wrong places in sentences). He has a second (and first)-place chess trophy, he follows up on Comic-Con mechanical pencil-centered violence, and there are enough Harry Potter jokes and references here to make me snicker (and my more sport-centered friends punch me in the arm).
I like that Hardwick doesn’t mind revealing who he really is, no matter how vulnerable that leaves him. He admits to a less-than-impressive talent he mastered in high school (incorrectly assuming girls would come running after witnessing such hand dexterity) and he freely recounts the time as a teenager he almost lost his virginity. And yes, he wants to own – and ride – a tiger.
It’s only natural that Hardwick would take such a hilarious stance against things that are most decidedly un-nerd-like. Antonio Banderas really is too sexy to be the voice of the Nasonex bee, Target now sells Ed Hardy t-shirts (“for the thrifty douchebag”), and his impression of an ex-sports bar bouncer bumbling his way through a haunted hospital in the name of ghost hunting cracked me up.
Despite his alignment with nerd culture, there’s something on this CD for everyone, and you don’t have to identify yourself as a nerd to find yourself laughing along. Hardwick has a fun outlook that, although you may already be familiar with him and his work, still comes across as unique and freshly individual. I like the way his mind works – there’s a killer Earth/Crispix comparison and his breakdown of various social networking sites is also hilariously dead-on – and enjoyed the album a lot. Nerd, dweeb, jock, douche, or Trekkie, no matter how you classify yourself, Mandroid is a great album that deserves a home on your playlist. It’s a Pandora’s Box of comedy!

The Top 10 Comedy Albums of 2012

Every year as I compile my list of my favorite comedy albums, I find myself struggling with the order in which to present them. This year was no different. For those of you who may not be aware of it, 2012 was a really great year for comedy (despite Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho both getting Grammy nominations) and it seemed every time I visited this list, the order changed a bit. I think that serves as a testament as to how amazing each of these albums are.

Although there are only 10 albums listed here (and a handful of Honorable Mentions), don’t think these are the only good comedy CDs to be released to the masses this year. In fact, you can see here my original list of candidates for this end-of-the-year post. All of them deserve a place in your library.

And so, here they are. I don’t claim this to be the list of the best of 2012, but they are the ones I enjoyed the most. Your list might look a lot different and that’s fine. The fact that you may even have a list means you’re listening to and supporting comedy and I’m down with that.

As you browse, you can click on the name of the comedian to read my original review of the project. Click on the album title if you want to pick up a copy of your own. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your holiday and I’ll see you back here in 2013.

10. JIM GAFFIGAN – MR UNIVERSE
Gaffigan has proved himself time and time again to be consistently funny as he pokes and prods at the nuances of life as only he can. There’s not a lot of new ground being tread (he still manages to wring some great comedy out of his standard topics like food, being lazy, his kids, food, and ad slogans) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some big laughs here. This project is especially suited for those who already love Gaffigan’s comedy, as it’s exactly what you expect it to be: Gaffigan being hilarious.
9. TODD BARRY – SUPER CRAZY
Barry has taken the low-key observational comedy style of comedians like Steven Wright and amped it up (and, in my opinion, made it better) by daring to add personality to his wry commentary. Instead of a straight, monotone, less-than-energetic delivery that could best be described as flatlined, Barry’s approach is punched up with sarcasm, cynicism, and a distinct disposition. He dares to question the nonsensical minutiae of life that really should be questioned and he doesn’t mind poking fun at the answers he receives.
8. DONALD GLOVER – WEIRDO: LIVE FROM NEW YORKIt’d been a few months since I last listened to this album and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed it (and it’s not just because I’m jonesing for all things “Community”). Glover is a great storyteller and his animated energy adds an extra jolt to each story he shares. Most of the album is a re-telling of childhood adventures and I couldn’t help but be reminded of a young Bill Cosby. Whether he’s trying to talk his mom into letting him have sugary cereal or dreading the trip to Home Depot, Glover’s memories jump to life and and easily transport us there with him. It’s a journey you’ll want to take.
7. MICHAEL J DOLAN – DRESS TO DEPRESS
Angry. Grumpy. Upset. Perturbed. Fed up. All of these are words and phrases that could be correctly used to describe Dolan, but you would be selling yourself – and especially Dolan – short if the first word that comes to mind isn’t simply “funny.” The acidic way he loathes those closest to him (including his friends and the woman he lives with) is especially amusing as he attacks these “energy burglars” with the same force he does strangers on the street. And really, if you can’t bring joy to others by hating on the ones you love the most, what have we become?
6. DYLAN BRODY – CHRONOLOGICAL DISORDER
Brody is one of those guys who is so good at putting words together, he’s a little intimidating to write about. Rather than try to match his good-word-putting-together-ness, I’ll focus instead on how much I enjoyed this album. You know when it’s December and not quite snow weather but still pretty bitter and you get that not-quite-sleet-but-not-quite-rain precipitation and as you walk from your car to your front door you step in a puddle and your socks are instantly drenched and you get inside, peel the socks off, and put on some hot water and you take off your sweater and by then the water is boiling and you make yourself the perfect pourover coffee with freshly-ground beans that were roasted locally only a few days ago and you sit down in your favorite chair and can finally relax and you take a sip of the coffee and it’s perfect and just what you needed? This album is that cup of coffee. 
5. ANDY WOODHULL – LUCYWith a devilish mix of mischievousness and innocence, Woodhull is an amazing comedic presence. The album is solid from start to finish. There are no lulls and each statement he makes is delivered with the confidence of someone who has no regrets. From the moment he hilariously described the rape of 3/5 of his college roommate’s sense, I knew I was in for a good time and as the CD progressed, Woodhull proved me quite correct.
4. DEMETRI MARTIN – STANDUP COMEDIAN
Like many of the comedians on this list, one of Martin’s strengths is his consistency. Going into this project, you had an expectation and a general idea of what you were going to get. Known for his bizarre way of looking at things through his Demetri prism and extracting blood from would-be topical stones, Martin once again delivers a solid album of random declaratives whose very existence would have you wondering “Where in the world did that come from?” if you weren’t so busy laughing.
3. GARY GULMAN – NO CAN DEFEND
To put it simply, there is not a bad track on this album. Every bit, every premise, every story is rock solid and if a comedian makes you laugh not by listening to his album but by thinking about it days later, you know you’re on to something good. Gulman mines one comedy gold nugget after another with stories on playing basketball at the JCC, The Karate Kid, the Top 5 Features of the Discman, and the “@” symbol, just to name a few. Of course, everything here is so funny because Gulman is 100% dead-on in what he’s saying. It’s a great album that is guaranteed to keep you laughing no matter how many times you’ve listened.
2. JOHN MULANEY – NEW IN TOWN
I’ve always loved an underdog and you’d be hard-pressed to find one more enjoyable to root for than Mulaney. Never one to shy away from criticizing his own actions or admitting just how incapable he is, Mulaney breathes new life into the whole idea of “Did I tell you about the time”-style storytelling. He’s not just a guy on stage talking to a group of strangers; you genuinely feel as if you’re hanging out at a bar swapping stories with a friend. And what stories they are. Part man-child who refuses to grow up as he laments the lack of quicksand in day-to-day life and part regular guy who probably should have been gay based on the way he talks and does things, Mulaney isn’t afraid of sharing stories that present himself – or Ice-T – in a less-than-flattering light.
1. CHAD DANIELS – YOU’RE THE BEST
Daniels was once nearly arrested for wishing AIDS on a cop. That bit alone is so funny, if it were the only thing on the album, it would still land on this list. Of course, he doesn’t just say he almost got arrested for wishing AIDS on a cop. He takes you through the entire timeline of events and as the story unfolds, it reveals laugh after laugh, each one bigger than the one before it. Every bit to be found here is just as funny, just as hilarious, and just as wrong. Whether it’s the guy with the cleft palate who takes reservations or his own beloved wife and kids, no one is safe from Daniels’s razor-sharp observations. It’s not just comedy done right, but to satisfying perfection. It’s true, Chad Daniels: You’re the best.

Kyle Kinane’s “Whiskey Icarus”

When I think of guys who drink and party and occasionally get tossed in jail for a DUI, I usually imagine one of two extremes. The first is the Nicolas Cage “Leaving Las Vegas”-type who depresses/bores the heck out of me and gets Oscar nominations for no explainable reason. The other is the spirited, intensely dedicated, gotta-love-him character Zach Galifianakis usually ends up portraying, especially in the “Hangover” films. On his new album “Whiskey Icarus,” Kyle Kinane definitely reminds me of the latter. A bit off-kilter yet never afraid of expressing exactly what he’s thinking, you can be sure you’ll always know right where he stands. Although Kinane and the Alan character have their similarities (they can get away with a lot of bad behavior because they’re just so likable), there are also some big differences. 
I probably shouldn’t spend too much time comparing Kinane to a fictional creation because Kinane is very much his own unique voice and person. Yes, both men have a lonely slacker vibe about them, but Kinane isn’t a caricature. He’s intelligent and articulate and admits he’s a lonely guy (That abandoned “frozen dinner for 1” in the beer aisle at the 7-11? That was him). He describes his fashion style as that of a wise high school janitor and while he’s proud of himself for getting his own apartment, he’s also aware that he’s 35 years old and probably should be living on his own. And that there are 35-year-old astronauts. And that the real reason he got his own place is unsettlingly honest (hide your Twizzlers).
Kinane is a guy who knows how to have a good time (the CD’s track listing is identical to KISS’s “Destroyer” album) but he does his best to have a good time responsibly. Being too drunk to drive won’t stop him for hitting up the Wendy’s drive-thru even if that means he has to call a minivan taxicab to take him there. His re-telling of trying to complete the transaction from the backseat sliding door is a lot of fun and indeed the adventure Kinane promised the driver it would be.
If you ever see Kinane at the airport, follow him, because something good is going to happen. Kinane and airports are a perfect recipe for weird stories and it seems that he can’t have an ordinary flight experience to save his life. On one flight, he finds himself seated next to a man eating pancakes out of a shopping bag from Foot Locker and naturally it raises a lot of questions. Kinane doesn’t ask questions without supplying a few answers and if you aregoing to eat pancakes out of a shopping bag from Foot Locker on a plane, there’s a correct way to go about it. 
Of course, I’ll take the pancakes guy over the lovemaking Spanish couple any day of the week. Kinane chooses to look at it as an opportunity, though, and if they’re going to have fun then doggonit, he is, too. Thus begins his in-flight drinking binge that, I suppose when you backtrack far enough, is all the fault of Orbitz.
I like Kinane’s outlook on life. This is a man who looks at life’s hiccups as a series of opportunities to have an adventure. You gotta love that. Blank fortune cookies are much more than a mishap at the printer’s and there’s a darn good reason you don’t hear more from the Bigfoot front. Two black guys with a white baby are never just two black guys with a white baby and if you’re going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, go out with a question mark instead of a period.
Kinane has a wildly devoted and passionate fan base and it’s easy to see why. For a guy who claims his life is a series of documented low points he sure is able to catch a lot of the funny about it. He’s consistent in what he does and he presents us with an hour of solid laughs. At one point, he reveals how he strives for his comedy to be looked at as an art form but admits his observations about his “turd contractions” prevent that from happening. I’ve got news for you Kinane: While you were shaving the sharp edges off of racism and fueling your body the same way Doc Brown fuels the Delorean at the end of Back to the Future….it happened.

This album is indeed art and Kinane is indeed a comedy artist. 

Now let’s go see what’s up at the airport. We’ve got more art to find.

Derek Sheen’s “Holy Drivel”

On the new album “Holy Drivel,” comedian Derek Sheen starts things off at a nice steady pace. He begins with a fun bit on the differences between Seattle and Portland to kind of ease us into the proceedings. Nothing too crazy. Ribbing Portland for their hippy-dippy all-vegan strip clubs and explaining why daylight ruins the strip club experience (including the names of strippers who don’t qualify to appear during peak nighttime hours, like “Bruisy,” “Clumpy,” and “Knuckles”), Sheen plays it cool while the audience gets comfortable.
And then, without warning, Sheen slams the pedal to the metal and we’re off like a shot. As he lays in on The South and their collection of the greatest fat people ever, the laughs suddenly go into overdrive and there’s no turning back. 
I’ve heard comics take on The South before but no one has taken them (and their biscuit-based economy) to the cleaners quite like Sheen. One moment he’s rattling off what sounds like a pretty tasty and totally legitimate recipe for perfect buttermilk biscuits and the next he’s listing the secret process for the accompanying gravy that I believe is just as equally accurate.
With Sheen, you never quite know what’s around the corner and that’s a good thing. He has a passion that is reminiscent of Lewis Black and his references, stretching from Frank Herbert’s “Dune” to Coachella all in one Paula Deen joke, will keep you on your toes.
Sheen’s observations and insights are right on the money: Gay men have great yard sales, lesbians do not (what do you do with a huge box of wolf t-shirts and dreamcatchers?). Chattanooga is the Detroit of The South. And yes, there is a way to correct things if you’re raising a crappy kid (grab your pillow). Sure, these aren’t all things you can say around the water cooler at your job tomorrow without catching a weird look or two, but that doesn’t take away from their truthyness (thank you, Stephen Colbert, for that word).
Like many of my favorite comedians, Sheen is more of a storyteller than a crafter of yuk-yuk one-liners. Particularly memorable is his tale of the small town Tennessee bar that comes to life on Fridays due to a mysterious and frightening phenomenon and you won’t soon forget the nickname he came up with for his best friend’s new baby that even surprised Sheen with it’s complete inappropriateness. 
Not to be forgotten is the final track that begins with a simple desire to get away from the pressures of everyday life and ends with the idea of leaving Disneyland covered in child blood and enduring the parenting styles of lame fathers who don’t incur the wrath of the Portuguese Tack Hammer but instead opt for repeating their child’s name over and over again for five minutes. If your name happens to be “Micah,” prepare yourself, because from now on you will have a new way of being addressed by your friends.
I found myself enjoying this album so much, when it was over I couldn’t believe 45 minutes had passed. At first I was angry and thought, “What a rip-off! A 20-minute CD? I want more!” Then, after realizing how much time had actually passed, it made me happy. Forty-five minutes flew by and that’s always a good sign. And, even though I thought I might, I didn’t walk away with “It’s A Small World” stuck in my head. That’s always good, too.

Paul Morrissey’s “Paul Morrissey’s Back”

Every once in a while you come across someone who is so off-the-wall and delightfully random, you can’t help but watch and enjoy the show. I went to high school with a guy named Jack. He was gangly and birdlike with wireframe glasses that were much too large for his head. He spoke with a speech impediment that made his R’s sound like “ahhs” and his receding hairline at age 16, combined with his love for all things wizard-related, pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t be spending much social time with the popular kids.


But I found him intriguing. 


He took things that others considered trivial extremely seriously and I loved that about him. Something about watching him bang his head against the wall of futility as he tried to figure out how people worked by using equations and theories instead of social interaction fascinated me. And now, years later, it still persists, as I read his Facebook posts with a rapt curiosity, lurking in the background as I watch him screaming to no one in particular about the GAS COMPANY SCREWING UP HIS BILL or THE FUCKING SCHOOL NOT BEING FAIR TO HIS DAUGHTER (who looks a lot like him yet is actually quite adorable. Go figure). Poor Jack. Even after all these years he still finds himself with the short end of the stick. John Hughes had it wrong. Anthony Michael Hall characters very rarely end up making out with the hot blonde in a convertible. 
So, what does all of this have to do with the new Paul Morrissey album, “Paul Morissey’s Back”? To be honest…not much. But there’s something about his comedy that reminded me of Jack. Maybe it’s Morrissey’s shaky, almost nervous sounding voice. Perhaps it’s the fact that, even on stage with a microphone in his hand, he still can’t get the idiots in the audience to Shut. Up. (Seriously, I mean, seriously, people, shut up. If you think you’re funny, show up at an open mic and give it a shot. Otherwise…for the love of Pete…Shut. Up.) 
But really, that’s where the similarities end. Where the sad sack I knew from high school pretty much stayed in his sad sack role, Morrissey faces his obstacles head on and bucks the trend by overcoming them. If the club won’t say something about the yammering audience members, then Morrissey will. If someone is going to shout something out, thinking they’re funny, Morrissey is going to show them what funny really is. And if the crowd is going to be all quiet and reserved on him (and, to be honest, they are. Unfairly), then he’s going to bring it up. So he made an innocent dead grandmother joke, get over it, already.
Morrissey has taken the hand life dealt him (he’s so pale, the “red eye fix” feature in photo programs has quite an unfortunate result) and found the humor of it all. Whether he’s being spattered with blood  while getting a haircut (and not his own blood, mind you) or explaining why he was disappointed the first time he witnessed a stripper jumping out of a cake, he takes the little things in life that seem predestined to trip him up and instead uses them to get laughter. And, in some instances, simultaneously sarcastic and racist applause.
I enjoyed Morrissey’s reaction to the lady at the deli counter who seemed genuinely confused by his turkey order and his bit on a girl’s most unusual tattoo goes exactly where you hoped it would. Only better. He loves Cinnabon so much they’ll probably never ask him to endorse their product and his questions about gay marriage and common-law marriage should give roommates everywhere a reason to stop and think.
This is a fun album that, although it brought to my mind a dorky kid from my hometown, is really nothing like him. Morrissey is engaging and someone you want to hang around with, not just stalk on social media sites. Morrissey isn’t afraid to take chances (except for hang gliding) and when something bugs him (home school kids with class rings) he knows how to express himself in a way that brings nice laughs.  From confusing bank fees to the kid at Subway who spray paints the meat, Morrissey has it all down and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s relatable and handles himself well and as a result, we all have a good time.
A guy like Jack could learn a thing or two. Heck, so could I.