Tag Archives: Brian Regan

T.G.I.F. – Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums

Yeah, I know it’s the end of January.

I’ve been compiling Top 10 album lists (and beyond) for music for over twenty-five years. It started as a conversation piece among a few friends (and as frightening as that sounds, that group continues to swap lists annually) and eventually worked its way into magazines I write for. I’m proud to have been part of the Village Voice Pazz’n’Jop poll for the last decade, even as my nominees seem to distance themselves from the vox populi a little more every year (tomorrow’s entry will delve a bit deeper into that).

But I have always been a comedy fan and a fan of comedy albums. Many friends wonder how I can listen to a routine more than once and find it funny. I’m not sure I can explain why except to say that (1) not every comedy album is worth multiple listenings and (2) I don’t even want to analyze and define the formula that will make me gasp for air in fits of laughter. I just know that funny is funny.

So this week after much hand-wringing and ear-wrangling, I laid out the Ten Best Comedy Albums of 2010. And trust me, 2010 was a great year for comedy albums – there are many more beyond this. And 2011 is already off to a great start with Brian Regan, Louis CK, Jim Norton and Nick Griffin having new releases on the shelf, with a ton more on the schedule.

So for now, allow me to bring your attention to Ten More 2010 Comedy Albums to should check out. Alphabetically arranged, but jump in anywhere…

01) Will Durst, Raging Moderate (Stand Up! Records) – One of the best political comics of our generation; I wish he had a bigger pulpit to preach from.

02) Chris Fairbanks, Fairbanks! (Rooftop Comedy) – You know that friend who will say anything to make you laugh? The sillier it gets, the further he’ll go?

03) Janeane Garofalo, If You Will (Image Entertainment) – Few people are as adept at stripping themselves bare, warts and all, no apologies.

04) Tommy Johnagin, Stand Up Comedy (Rooftop Comedy) – Just missed my Top Ten, a little short and crashes at the end. But the first 30 minutes is gold.

05) Jackie Kashian, It’s Never Going To Be Bread (Stand Up! Records) – Next time someone says there are no good female comics, slap them and give them this album.

06) Simon King, Unfamous Comedian (Uproar Entertainment) – Almost an hour-long of non-stop tangents, and when you open with “llama fisting”…

07) Shane Mauss, Jokes To Make My Parents Proud (Comedy Central Records) – Imagine Kenneth from 30 Rock…only he’s high, sarcastic and condescending.

08) Tom Simmons, Keep Up (Rooftop Comedy) – Another Top Ten near-miss, mixes puns and one-liners with strong political and social commentary.

09) Dan Telfer, Fossil Record (A Special Thing Records) – I know, when someone said “dinosaur jokes”, I rolled my eyes too. Trust me.

10) Reggie Watts, Why Shit So Crazy? (Comedy Central Records) – By comparison, I’m not a big fan of comedy musicians, but this guy is a genius.

Starting Sunday, the countdown of the Ten Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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Stand Up Wit… Jeff Caldwell

"Who is accepting bananas from strangers?"

"That's 'cause the sound comes out of this hole on the front of my face..."

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).

Caldwell on David Letterman.

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.

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Stand Up Wit…Matt Weinhold

 

"Who gets a fourteen hour show these days that ends in nudity?"

"Who gets a fourteen hour show these days...that ends in nudity?"

The longest track on DEAD FUNNY is the opener, and for a couple of minutes I was wondering if Matt Weinhold was going to get the crowd at Cobb’s off the ground. Seemed like the drug jokes weren’t working as planned, but then he adeptly turned the tepid reaction into his favor by steering into bits on listening to Rush on acid and joining the Kiss Army, and from that point forward, he was rolling. (The Geddy Lee impression was priceless.) By the time he got around to the…uhh…special bicycle seat, all bets were off.

There are thirty-six tracks on the album, although several are just logical segues that could have been lumped together (e.g. “Bald Race”/”Last Haircut”). Weinhold is not a monologist; he’s in and out of topics quickly – a quick one or two jabs to set up the punch line, then a couple of great reaction lines to drive it home (often using sound effects and a myriad of voices to add color). I haven’t seen him in person, but based on the voices and timing I would bet he’s physically expressive as well. Not Brian Regan expressive, but very visual.

Yet despite the seeming smorgasbord of topics, there’s a great flow to the set, and like the San Francisco crowd at Cobb’s I was laughing throughout.  And Weinhold has balls – he’s unafraid of offending anyone. If several gay, Nazi, serial killer and pedophile jokes were over the line, he absolutely hurdledit with “Pudding”, yet he was able to pull even the dumbfounded audience members back in and get out alive. But compared to those pokes at the disabled, he’s soon far rougher on himself as a geeky, lazy, balding sci-fi freak who resorts to pleasuring himself in the kitchen rather than summon the initiative to do the dishes. Matt might have wanted the audience to leave the show with the word “assfigure” as their new vocabulary entry, but it’s the one he coined in “Masturbation” that will haunt me for a while.

Besides the above, my other favorite pieces were “Pepe Le Pew”/”Yosemite Sam” (with excellent imitations), “Amateur Porn”, “Action Figures” (take that, conventioneers!) and the closing bits on sad, tired and bizarre relationships. (I think I dated that girl in “Living Together”, although Matt’s nightmare woman sounds more like Kevin Meaney on a Red Bull jag…)

DEAD FUNNYis a solid effort, as Weinhold hits the target often. Plus anyone who’s into BUBBA HO-TEP is alright with me.

Tons of information at Matt’s website.

You can also buy DEAD FUNNY at CD Baby.

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