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Archive for the ‘Comedy Album’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 3, 2016] David Cross

cross I have enjoyed David Cross since the old days of Mr. Show, and the as Tobias on Arrested Development and even in Alvin and the, well, actually I’m just happy for him that he got a lot of money for it.

When he released his previous stand up album, Bigger and Blackerer, Sarah and I listened to it in the car on a long trip and we had tears in our eyes from laughing so hard.

So when I heard he was touring I thought it would be fun to see him live.  And, yes, it was.

But we ran into a few bumps along the way.  We had to leave very late because our babysitter had car trouble.  She arrived just late enough that we weren’t sure if it was worth still driving the hour to Philly.  We decided if traffic was terrible we would just stop somewhere and have dinner instead.  I even called the Theatre to see if there was an opening act (nope) and if the show really started at 7:30 and not 8 (yup, he would start at exactly 7:30).  Traffic was light and the GPS said we’d get to the garage at 7:35.  I missed the turn for the alley that our garage was on, and then we got slightly lost on the walk from garage to theater and as we got there at 7:40… there were still a whole bunch of people milling about in the lobby.  And then they flashed the lights telling us to get to our seats.  We missed nothing!

And we even got to tsk at people who arrived later than us.  Cross even joked that he would wait to start his joke because “it’s not fucking distracting or anything” when people are being seated.  I was frankly shocked that people seemed to still be arriving around 8PM! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH-Speak English or Die (1985).

S.O.D. was a side project of Anthrax.  It was an over the top (and hilariously un-PC) collection of super fast (and super short) punk songs.  A lot of the “mosh” sound that Anthrax was experimenting with around this time is in place here (“Milano Mosh” for instance).  So it’s an interesting mix of speed metal and punk.

The lyrics were, as they say, designed to piss everyone off.  And they do.  Song titles like “Speak English or Die,” “Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues,” “Pussy Whipped,” “Fuck the Middle East” and “Douche Crew” pretty much give you a taste of the music.

And yet, Anthrax are silly.  So you know that the band is a parody (even if people took them seriously).  And the best way to tell about the serious intentions of the band are by other songs (and their duration): “Anti-Procrastination Song” – 0:06, “Hey Gordy!” – 0:07, “Ballad of Jimi Hendrix” – 0:05 (entire lyrics: “He’s dead”) and of course “Diamonds and Rust” (Extended Version) – 0:05.  There’s also a song about “Milk” which laments the fact that all of the milk in the fridge has been drunk.

My favorite track is “What’s That Noise.”  The band plays the opening chords of a song and this static crackles in.  Billy Milano slowly goes absolutely insane screaming about the noise, yelling at the band to stop playing.  It still makes me laugh, 25 years later.

[READ: Week of August 20, 2010] Letters of Insurgents [Last Letters]

Yarostan’s final letter is a long one, but it is justifiably long. And in some ways it makes up for all the weird incest stuff that I had to read.   Although really nothing could make up for that.

The beginning of the letter is taken up with Mirna and Yara’s “prank” at Jasna & Titus’ engagement party. There so many details to include that I’m just going to summarize. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DING DONG DENNY O’REILLY & THE HAIRY BOWSIES-publocked (1996).

My friend Lar introduced me to this ol’fella (he may have even sent me this CD, as I can’t imagine where I’d have found it on my own).

Ding Dong Denny is the alter ego of Paul Woodfull (who created the Joshua Trio a U2 tribute/pisspull).  And, as I know precious little else about the man, I’ll let the more enlightened pass along the details.

Publocked is a lowbrow amalgam of all kinds of Oirish nonsense.  It’s vulgar and crass and often quite funny.  (Some of the bits stand up to repeated listening–the songs more than the chatty bits, although the chatty bits are especially funny).

Take “The Ballad of Jayus Christ” which sounds like a pretty standard simple ballad until you realize what he’s singing:  “Jaysus O Jaysus As cool as bleeding ice…It’s funny you never rode, coz its you I do my shouting for each time I shoot me load.”

But it’s not all blasphemy.  The “single” “Flow River Flow” is a very sensitive track about the benefits and majesty of the sacred waters (with tin whistles and everything): “When I was just a young man, I sit on the river bank  I loved your gentle water so much I’d have a wank”  With the glorious swelling chorus: “Flow river flow, fuck off to the sea, go where you are wanted, to the deserts of Gobi”

True, now, that’s all kind of crass.  But Ding Dong takes a political stance, too. Take “Spit at the Brits.”  “We Spit at the Brits an we showered’em in a lovely shade of green…we spit at the brits, and then they blew us all to smithereens.”

And what Irishman could ignore the Famine.   “The Potatoes Aren’t Looking the Best” is a view of the famine through the eyes of a farmer.  Shite.

Not everything is a winner, “I Get A Round” is a “cover” of “I Get Around.”   The lyrics are changed to reflect being in a pub (get it?).  And “My Heart Gets So Full (You’d Swear I Had Tits)” is pretty funny, especially since it’s played as an oh so serious ballad, but there’s not much in the world that’s funny for 7 minutes.

So, yes, it’s not quite Joyce, but then Joyce does talk about masturbating by the water, so it’s all equal, right?

[READ: Week of July 26, 2010] Ulysses: Episodes 7-9

Before I begin, I want to make sure that everyone has checked out Ulysses Seen.  It’s an illustrated rendition of the book.  The details are exquisite and you’ll no doubt pick up things that weren’t as apparent in the proper text.  The only bad thing I can say about it is that it’s not finished yet.  So far Robert Perry has only completed Episode One, and it sure looks like that took a long time (it’s really stunning); but between the details ion the drawing and the extensive reader’s guide that comes with it, one can perch there for quite a while.

I admit that this week’s slog through Ulysses was rather unpleasant for me.  The three episodes included here were massive doses of stream of consciousness.  I actually found them exhausting to read.  Not to mention, in terms of plot advancement, they’re rather paltry. (more…)

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TNY 12.22&29.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS–Peace! Songs for Christmas Vol. V (2006).

peaceThis EP comes very close to being my favorite; it may even beat vol 3.  In part because the disc is 35 minutes long (still short for Sufjan Stevens but longer than some bands’ full lengths).

Four songs are sort of repeated from other discs.  “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” (a pretty piano version) “Jingle Bells” (a bouncy piano version) and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (a slow piano version) are short instrumental reprises and act as nice segues between the more meaty songs.

“Get Behind Me, Santa!” is something of a Santa bashing song, but it’s still pretty fun (with some great prog rock synth sounds).  But it is nowhere near as delightful as “Christmas in July,” another original that is totally Sufjan, from start to finish.  It’s a great song regardless of the season.  The pair of “Jupiter Winter” and “Sister Winter” are two originals: one mellow, the other less so.  While I don’t love “Jupiter,” “Sister” is fantastic.

“Star of Wonder” is not the part from “We three Kings” but an original song full of Sufjan’s orchestration.  It is mesmerizing. “Holy, Holy, Holy” is another beautiful rendition of a classic Christmas song (the delicate harmonies are really affecting).  And finally, “The Winter Solstice” sounds just like its title: chilly and spare.

And that completes the box set, one of my favorite Christmas collections.

[READ: January 4, 2009] “Dead Man Laughing”

I have only read On Beauty (and a piece in The Believer to be reviewed later) by Zadie Smith and yet I feel that she has rapidly eclipsed many of my favorite writers.  There is something about her style that is just beautiful to me.  She writes deliberately and powerfully without overembellishing or resorting to anything beneath her.  People often say that they could listen to so and so sing or recite the phone book, their voice is so good (I feel that way about Patrick Stewart).  Well whatever the equivalent for a writer is, that hows I feel about Zadie Smith. (more…)

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After getting the dislikes out of my system, it’s time to bring in the positivity.  Now that I have a lot of different Christmas discs to choose from, I don’t get inundated with the same songs over and over.  This has really allowed me to appreciate the old songs for what they are.

So, here’s 12 things I like about the holiday tune season (in no particular order)

1. “O Holy Night”
oholyI feel like I never really knew this song until I heard Cartman getting cattle-prodded for not knowing the words.   I listened to that version all the time (but I can’t tell if I like that version or the one on Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics better [“Fall on your knees, and hear the angels… something” “VOICES!”]), and what it did was give me a real appreciation for what a cool song this is.  The chord changes are very satisfying without being really obvious.  And, it’s not an easy song to sing.  But I have liked every tooversion I’ve heard: from Cartman to Avril Lavigne (whose first two verses on Maybe This Christmas, Too are the most vibrato-free singing I have ever heard.  I’m quite certain she’s flat all the way through, and yet her voice is so unaffected it’s totally disconcerting.  Tell me what you think…it’s available here).

Sarah: This truly is a beautiful song and I love all its versions as well, from Cartman to Tracy Chapman. I’m not a religious person but I always feel a little holy when I sing this. (more…)

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wackySOUNDTRACK: BOB NEWHART-The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (1960), The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back (1960) & Behind the Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (1961).

newhart1We started watching The Bob Newhart Show on DVD (the 1970s one, not the one set in the inn).  I was surprised how much I liked it and how well it stood up, for the most part.  And it made me realize how much I liked Bob Newhart in general.  So, I figured I’d try some of his stand up and see what it was like.

newhart3I was delighted to find out that a joke from Mystery Science Theater 3000 was finally explained to me: the “Mrs Webb” joke that is muttered whenever an old lady is driving a car comes from the “Driving Instructor” joke on the first album (hereafter known as Button-Down).  It’s only taken a decade for me to get that joke!

newhart2But really, what do you get when you listen to a Newhart CD?  And what would a reviewer write about in a review of these CDs?  Well, I think it would go something like this:

[Reviewer]: Yea, hi, ha ha.  Hi.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: I was just listening to these Newhart CDs.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: No.  No, they’re not new, they’re almost 50 years old now.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Ha ha, right.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: No, they’re basically telephone conversations.  In most instances Bob plays a character listening to the person on the other end whom you never hear.  So, it’s almost entirely reaction shots.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Yes, they’re very funny.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: A few are dated.  The one about Khrushchev, “The Khrushchev Landing Rehearsal” (Button-Down), for example is pretty funny but was probably a lot funnier in 1960.  And “Driving Instructor” (Button-Down) is sexist in set-up (it’s sort of a joke about “women drivers” but once you get past that it applies to any new driver) but the joke is probably the funniest thing on any of the discs.  I was also concerned about “The Africa Movie” (Behind the Button) as it seemed potentially fraught with inappropriate humor, but it turned out to be very very funny, and a wonderful twist on expectations.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Yes, the skits do run pretty long.  Most are over 5 minutes, but he packs a lot of jokes into that time.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Well, sure there are a few that are only about 2 minutes long, and one that even comes close to set up/punchline: “TV Commercials” on Behind the Button (the dentist commercial in particular).  But even on that disc, the one sided nature of the conversations persists.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: There’s a Khrushchev skit on Behind the Button as well (“Tourist Meets Khrushchev”), but aside from knowing who he is, the jokes in that skit aren’t dated at all.  It’s all about an annoying tourist running into him somewhere…and the resultant consequences.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Yeah, Yeah. Boom!
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: It’s not violent, just implied.  Another potentially violent one is “Bus Drivers School” (Strikes Back) as he notes that it takes a certain type of sadist to drive a bus, if you know what I mean.  But, uh, well, the only one that gets somewhat risque is “The Uncle Freddie Show” which shows Newhart’s intolerance for kid’s TV show hosts.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: What?
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Well, Uncle Freddie doesn’t seem to like kids.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Oh.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Well, no, some other topics are “Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball” (Button-Down) because how could you possibly market it [“Why four balls, Abner?”]?
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Yes, a lot with marketing.  Like “Abe Lincoln Vs. Madison Avenue” (Button-Down) [“Keep the beard, Abe], and “Merchandising the Wright Brothers” (Button-Down) [“Where will we put the john, Orville?”].
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Precursor to what?
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Well, he does predate many, many comedians by having airline jokes.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: No, nothing about peanuts. But “The Grace L. Ferguson Airline (And Storm Door Co.)” (Strikes Back)” pretty much negates the need for any future airline humor.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: No, I’m not saying the new comedians aren’t funny.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: I do like Seinfeld.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: No, Newhart’s bit is about an airline run out of someone’s house.
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: It’s totally….
[ ]:
[Reviewer]: Oh, forget it.

All three discs are very funny.  I was under the impression that he only had these three discs, but I now understand he released four more discs through 1967, all of which are supposed to be funny, but which are unavailable right now.

[READ: Halloween 2008] Wacky Packages

So you don’t really READ this book.  This book is a collection of images from the Wacky Packages collection of trading cards that circulated from 1973-1974.  There were seven series of cards that ran during this time for a total of some 232 cards.  According to the site I link to below, there were 16 series in total, which makes sense, as I was only 5 when these 7 series came out, but I distinctly recall getting the packs myself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAUL F. TOMPKINS-Impersonal (2007).

Since the book had no words, I figured I’d review a record with no music. We heard Paul F. Tompkins on some random NPR show one night during dinner. They played the “Peanut Brittle” skit and Sarah and I were in tears. The kids must have wondered what was going on. We could barely eat; for six minutes we ignored all but Paul.

I tracked down the CD and it is very funny. Tompkins has a wonderful delivery and a way of making asides that keep the joke going longer than it should, but still staying funny. The very premise of the first joke is seeing a goth girl running, which is funny in and of itself, but he takes it in a new direction and turns it back against himself. Some other great tracks include the hilarious “Elegant Balloons” “Genetic Engineering” (house bears!), and the so true it hurts “Letters to Magazines.” Oh, and “Jazz” is also very funny, and I even like jazz.

It is clearly impossible to describe a comedy album without retelling the jokes, but I will say that Sarah and I had both listened to the CD individually, and then on the way back from the airport we listened to it together and were in tears yet again. Now we even get to make a few remarks just to relive the hilarity.

A little research uncovers that Tompkins was a player and writer for Mr Show as well as the Tenacious D series. And, in fact he is bubbling under in many venues. I guess don’t read credits well enough to have remembered him. So, good for him, and thank you NPR.

More research uncovers that this NPR shows was The Sound of Young America. Diligent readers will know that I discovered Simon Rich on this show as well. So I have listened to this show twice and come away with new material both times. I should make this a regular listen. You can hear an interview with Paul here.

[READ: June 21, 2008] Superbad: The Drawings

Now this book has nothing to do with the Ben Greenman books I mentioned earlier. This is a collection of 90 some pages of phallohgraphics (ie drawings of penises). If you’ve seen the movie Superbad, and who hasn’t, you’ll know there’s a story about the Seth character drawing penises and getting into trouble. Well, this is the collection of all the penises that the cowriter’s brother David Goldberg drew for the movie.

What can one possibly say about this except that the book is hilarious, childish and totally obscene. From an artistic standpoint, the drawings are first rate. Somehow, he was able to draw penises that look just like McLovin, Seth and Evan. Why on earth would anyone buy this? Beats me. I know I did. I’m sure I’ll peruse it from time to time and then hide it when my kids get old enough to browse the bookshelves.

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