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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #4, #3

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#4) Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache

There are people willing to take chances, and then there is Richard Herring in 2010. Determined to take back the toothbrush moustache from the legacy of Hitler and return it to comedy where it belongs, Herring uses this simple premise (or as he suggests, this terrible idea) as a platform from which to discuss racism, prejudice, hypocrisy and every other foible of human behavior. And, of course, he’s funny as hell in the process.

Available as a two-disc set packed with features, there’s actually a third disc available, albeit only from the distributor. Herring continues to create inventive, daring and unique comedy for those unsatisfied with the ordinary. (Go Faster Stripe)

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#3) Maria Bamford: Plan B

Maria Bamford doesn’t have her own television show, although she should – she’s the strongest and most versatile comedienne since Tracey Ullman. And like Ullman – and Carol Burnett before her, Bamford has an uncanny ability to inhabit characters so thoroughly that you see the whole array of them in front of you even without makeup or a costume change. Like Sybil, but for your entertainment.

So in this show she performs her own sitcom – or dramedy – centered upon her family as if it’s a therapeutic exercise to excise some demons. It’s a brilliant performance, just Bamford in a t-shirt and jeans with a chair and a couple of lighting cues. It’s occasionally uncomfortable and overtly personal, but it’s riveting. Dozens of additional short offstage clips act as a psychological travelogue, at you at once wonder just how fragile she really is…and why the hell she isn’t a household name. (Stand Up! Records)

***

The countdown concludes tomorrow with #2 and #1

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Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #6, #5

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#6) Glenn Wool: Let Your Hands Go

I’m glad there was both a CD and a DVD in this package, because as hilarious as Glenn Wool is to listen to, he’s that much funnier to watch. The bonus footage has some overlaps with the audio show, but this underrated Canadian comic is an extemporaneous performer and both shows are strong. Looking like Steve Zahn gone to seed, Wool’s scruffy attitude might make one think cracker comedy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Wool masterfully uses manic facial expressions and voices from a whisper to a scream to hold up ridiculous ideas and gleefully shame them. While he’s expert at taking down deserving targets like financial institutions, gay bashers and exclusionary religions, the more personal bits – like the battle between “Drunken Glenn” and “Sober Glenn” (and their rude friend “Cocaine Glenn”!) – are clear highlights. Wool is kicking ass all over the globe, and with upcoming TV slots on John Oliver’s Stand Up and Green Room with Paul Provenza, hopefully the US will wise up and catch on.  (Stand Up! Records)

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#5) Paul F. Tompkins: You Should Have Told Me

Last week I mentioned being an equal opportunity cheater by placing Bill Burr’s Let It Go into the Comedy Album list rather as a DVD. The flip side to that decision is that I’m including Paul F. Tompkins’ album Sir, You Have Fooled Me Twice as a companion piece in my recommendation for this DVD, even though they were released separately. I know siblings when I see them.

Tompkins, always a great comic, has really taken his game up a notch over the past two years. Freak Wharf was a mindblower, and he came right back a year later with this one-two punch. Not everyone can get that personal and that confessional and still walk the tightrope, but he’s proven he can captivate and mesmerize an audience with a deep, personal exploration as sharply as he can with surreal storytelling. (Yet he can still be silly enough to include a non-interactive menu on a DVD.) I don’t think there’s anything that Tompkins can’t do, and it’s exciting to watch him push himself to new heights. (A Special Thing Records)

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The countdown continues tomorrow with #4 and #3

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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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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #3-2-1

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

Maybe the most amazing thing about my list – and I didn’t realize what was happening until after I locked everything down – is that nine of the top ten were debut albums. That is partially due to the likelihood that an established seller will more likely get the financial backing for a DVD project. But it also signals the fact that a group of brilliant writers and performers (many of whom have been staff writers for successful and established shows and performers) are getting an opportunity to get their unique voices out there. 

It’s heartbreaking to realize how many great comic minds we’ve lost in recent years, but it’s reassuring to know that so many have picked up the torch.

Finalizing a top ten was tough, determining the top three was exasperating.

But here we go…

***

#03: Kyle Kinane, DEATH OF THE PARTY

Great imagery and material; immediately captivating with an incredibly original style. Sure, he looks and sounds disheveled, but this album straddles the line between stream of consciousness riffing and nuggets of cosmic gold. I will always marvel at the way Mitch Hedberg’s brain worked for puns and one-liners; and I think Kinane’s storytelling presentation is on that same level of greatness.  (A Special Thing Records)

***

#02: Anthony Jeselnik, SHAKESPEARE

He might be the smartest writer out there; if you don’t believe it just ask him! Deliberate slow pacing, where he clearly enunciates every word to squeeze every nuance, silence and twist for maximum effect. You have to be very skillful to present yourself as an arrogant know-it-all constantly baiting the audience, but when your CD is one perfectly constructed joke after another, you are acquitted. (Comedy Central Records)

***

#01: Auggie Smith, SMELL THE THUNDER

A great combination of social exasperation, political/religious commentary and brilliant writing. Smith’s album is a blend of Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope – basically everything I like about standup comedy. Great pacing, exceptional delivery and inflection, and even his throw-away lines are hilarious. In a year when many strong comedy albums were released, this was the cream of the crop. (Rooftop Comedy)

***

Next week: The Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #7-6-5-4

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

***

#07: Bill Burr, LET IT GO

Ok, probably cheating a wee bit here, because Burr does have a DVD of this show and there were a couple of extra jokes on it, but the two are very close in content. (I’m an equal opportunity cheater, as you’ll see when the DVD list is posted.) But no matter where this is listed, it’s great. Burr just keeps getting better every year, baring his soul in his shows and flushing out his brain, unfiltered, on his weekly podcasts. He’s the guy like you and I who is just too fucking tired of putting up with the lack of common courtesy, the ineptitude of customer service and the complete banality of what passes for modern society. The odd thing is that a lesser comic would go down in flames trying to work these topics, but Burr is so passionate and magnetic that he sells every moment. (Image Entertainment)

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#06: Joe DeRosa, THE DEPRESSION AUCTION

A comedian – and an album – that deserves to be far better known. Both self-deprecating and intolerant of others, Joe’s aptly named collection of rants places him as the man who just doesn’t fit, whether it’s ineptitude at sports, being taken seriously as a person or just trying to justify his own anger at boorish people and bad cable before realizing that it would probably mean more if he wasn’t observing this from the fetal position. He tees off on hecklers, reality stars and himself and caps it all off with the tale of performing for fans of The Insane Clown Posse. I don’t know what’s stranger – that the Juggalos invited him to perform and he accepted…or that afterwards they invited him back again . (Comedy Central Records)

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#05: Myq Kaplan, VEGAN MIND MELD

A master of language, one of the best comic wordsmiths that I have heard in a long time. With his intellect, he could leave most of the audience in the dust and be the ultimate nerd comic playing to tiny Mensa gatherings. But fortunately he has a good dose of silly in his DNA and he loves puns. There are so many jokes layered within jokes that it will take multiple listens to shake every one of them loose. Incredible with call backs – if you saw him on Last Comic Standing you watched him weave them into every set. And for the icing on the cake, he’s a razor-sharp moralist taking society to task on politics and religion, which means he’s leaving you laughing and thinking.  (Live at Comix)

***

#04: Hannibal Buress, MY NAME IS HANNIBAL

Buress redefines casual; unlike comics who start their set with a bang, he’s so laid back that you might wonder if he’s talking in his sleep. But he’s s sneaky bastard. Little jokes start piling up one after another and before you know it, that snowball is hurtling down the hill like an avalanche. And when he does eventually explode with an expletive or a loud voice, it only makes the punch line that much funnier. He has a great knack for making the mundane sound insane, and his absurdist takes are stellar. It’s as if Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby had a love child – he’s got the Cosby pacing and the lunacy of Louie. How could SNL suck so bad if he is writing for them? (Stand Up! Records)

***

The countdown concludes tomorrow with #3, #2 and #1.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #10-9-8

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart  from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album, I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

***

#10: Mike DeStefano, OK KARMA:

What a breakout year for Mike, who lit it up on Last Comic Standing and brought cringe humor to the forefront. Hysterically funny, he also has a personal back story so cathartic and outrageous that it will stop you dead in your tracks. Many comedians have a persona, but I believe this is the melting pot of the real guy bursting through. Irreverent and fearless, I love that he’ll swing for the fences, miss, and then dig in and swing harder because he knows he will get you eventually. (Stand Up! Records)

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#09: Matt McCarthy, COME CLEAN

Total nutjob, and that’s fine by me. Prone to explosive rants of ridiculous logic as frequently as deceptively subtle comic gold, McCarthy’s debut album still has me laughing months later, especially the closing piece where he answers an Internet survey in reverse. Probably the most unusual opening and closing bits on any comedy album, ever, but both kill …as does most of what’s in between them. (Live at Comix)

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#08: Sean Kent,  WAITING FOR THE RAPTURE

Kent’s “take no prisoners” attitude is relentless but funny, even bringing a unique take to common targets like Wal-Mart, Glenn Beck, Facebook and religious fanatics. Sure, there are dick jokes and local references and social outrage and little girlie voices, but Kent is willing to go all the way out there to take the mundane and the topical and wring something fresh out of both.  (Uproar Entertainment)

***

The countdown continues Wednesday with #7, #6, #5 and #4.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases

We’re in the midst of another stand-up comedy renaissance, although you’d never know it by the recent Grammy nominations. But as one who eagerly anticipates every comedy album release, I was thrilled with 2010’s bounty and 2011 is shaping up to be even better with first releases from great new comics as well as the return of a couple of old favorites.

Looks like television has raised the bar for 2011 – IFC has picked up Mr. Show, The Ben Stiller Show and The Onion News to add to an already great lineup that includes Arrested Development, Undeclared and Freaks And Geeks. The new Comedy Central Presents series launches in mid-January and John Oliver’s Stand Up returns in March. Might have to get another DVR!

So here are Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases to get excited about. And keep your eyes peeled at Stand Up! Records, Comedy Central, Uproar Entertainment, Rooftop Comedy , AST and other fine labels committed to bringing great comedy to your front door…

01) Patrice O’Neal Elephant In The Room…comedy special taped in November and will be available in January. One of the funniest guys on the planet and a very overdue release!

02) Nick Griffin Bring Out The Monkey…thrilled that he cut a second album after all this time; he nails the angst of frustrated desperation as well as anyone ever has.

03) Daniel Tosh Happy Thoughts…I don’t follow Tosh 2.0 but both of his prior releases were hilarious. Great presentation and sarcasm; I can’t wait!

04) Kurt Metzger – (Title TBD)…I’ve been pimping this guy to anyone who will listen; anyone who saw Last Comic Standing knows he got screwed over. Maybe the album on this list I’m most excited about.

05) Paul F. TompkinsYou Should Have Told Me…his first DVD and sure to be an undoubtedly surreal experience. I’m still laughing at Freak Wharf, let alone his amazing guest stint on Community last week.

06) Natasha Leggero – (Title TBD)…I gave her a rough ride when covering Last Comic Standing but ate my words when she got a chance to do standup on the last episode. Check out the second Tonight Show clip on her website; the album will surely be a killer.

07) Louis CKHilarious…how prolific is this guy? Louie got picked up for another season and might have been the best show of 2010; Hilarous is coming out in January and he’s already touring with a new show, Word.

08) Whitney Cummings Money Shot…loved her first album, one of the best comedy releases of 2009. She’s fearless and raw, and this new show is funny as hell.

09) Nick Kroll Thank You Very Cool…scene stealing Kroll will no doubt have some blisteringly inappropriate stand-up plus feature some of his bizarre characters.

10) Norm MacDonald Norm MacDonald Stand-Up Special…March 2011, proving once and for all that there is a God.

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