Fun With Pop Culture

Half-Ass CD Review(s): Comedy Round Up (April 22)

Todd Barry is my favorite stand-up comedian. I treated the release of his new album, From Heaven, with the same outpouring of emotion with which another man might treat some sort of sports victory, or perhaps a wedding day.

You may know Todd as the voice of Frank Mankiewicz on Freak Show, or Senator Whitehead’s son on Lucy, Daughter of the Devil. Or perhaps you know him as the Third Conchord from the season finale of Flight of the Conchords. Maybe you’ve seen him on Comedy Central. If you are altogether unfamiliar with Todd Barry, you are in for a treat.

Todd’s not one of those comedians you can describe by comparing him to another comedian. The closest I can come is a meaner Stephen Wright, but rooted in the real world. He doesn’t really have a gimmick that pigeonholes him, either. It’s straight-out, quality comedy.

On this, his third album, Todd takes on male prostitutes, MySpace, people with uncreative nicknames for cocaine, and various audience members. Barry’s one of the few comedians who can talk about comedy in a way that actually makes it funny for the audience. Most comics get really boring when they start talking about past audiences or their reviews or the venues they’ve performed in. Those things are anti-comedy. It’s just masturbatory, really. But when Todd talks about an audience member who threatened to “challenge him comedically”, it’s gold. This particular CD was recorded in a Chinese restaurant / comedy club. Talking about that should not be funny on a CD, as the majority of listeners will be unfamiliar with this mythical venue. You know what? It’s really funny. The funniest bit on the album may well be his complaints about when fans e-mail him with questions about the venues where he’s performing. This turns into a great joke about Mick Jagger’s e-mail. Todd Barry knows funny, and he brings it on a consistent basis.

I realize it’s only April, but Todd Barry’s From Heaven is likely to be the best comedy release of 2008. Buy it, and then buy his other albums, Medium Energy and Falling off the Bone. And then write to me to tell me how much better your life is as a result.

Score: Five Beans

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