It’s pretty rare these days to hear a comedian who is incredibly funny and is family friendly to boot. I’m not one who equates foul language with a weak comic mind. If it’s used for emphasis or in storytelling, it’s not offensive – if anything it’s more realistic and believable. Language is what it is, and if you don’t think people yell fuck when they hit their thumb with a hammer or when something goes horribly wrong, you might want to check that calendar of yours.
Conversely I find that some comics who purposely avoid certain topics and phrases often flounder with tired premises and well-worn subject matter in an effort to be politically correct. And observational humor? That’s taken such a beating post-Seinfeld that it’s almost an insult to attribute the title to a comedian. But there are a few that can offer a fresh take on the everyday subjects and be gut-busting funny while not dropping a bagful of F-bombs. Brian Regan has found great success recently, and I predict that Jeff Caldwell won’t be far behind.
Anyone who names their album I’m No Epidemiologist and actually works that into a punch line is betting that there’s an audience who can appreciate someone with a functioning vocabulary who is not going for the lowest common denominator. And that’s where Jeff’s magic lies; despite looking every bit the ex-engineer that he is, Caldwell exudes smart without being smarmy. (Dick Cavett is smart but he never let you forget that for a moment, and people didn’t like that. Robert Klein is just as smart but always talked to you like you are too…and you warmed up to the guy in a heartbeat. Caldwell is definitely on the Klein side of the fence – you immediately like him).
A good routine – hell, a great joke – can be shattered by a bad delivery. Nuance, inflection, timing, cadence and vocal pitch are critical, especially on a recorded album where the you cannot rely on the visual gestures or arched eyebrow to drive the point home. Caldwell is so relaxed and smooth that it almost seems effortless, but of course it’s not. And although each topic he riffs about on Epidemiologist is commonplace – financial woes, sports, bad products (with worse customer service), awkward encounters – he nails it.
Check him out; he’ll be a favorite of yours, too.
Jeff’s MySpace page features a few video clips.
Jeff’s home page – tour dates, more video and infrequent travelogue updates.