I love stand-up comedy almost as much as I love movies. From a very early age, the first time I saw Bill Cosby to be precise, I’ve always had a love for the art and this series will serve as a loving tribute to one of the most difficult forms of entertainment one can undertake.
Jim Gaffigan-Beyond the Pale (2006)
Our first subject is an offering from a man I’ve only recently discovered in the last year or so. Jim Gaffigan is a wonderfully offbeat comic with an easygoing Midwestern friendliness that makes his comedy that much funnier.
After a few CD releases, Jim put out Beyond the Pale in 2006. Coupled with a special on Comedy Central, this set is an excellent way to introduce someone to his unique brand of comedy.
It opens with him doing his “inner voice”, a whispery, strangely outraged audience member who serves as a running commentary on the actual material in the routine. It’s a great way to disarm the audience and at times is even funnier than the jokes he does.
He moves on to spend most of the show talking about food and eating. Far from a one dimensional topic, he manages to make the laughs come for nearly an hour. The highlight has to be his routine on Hot Pockets. It’s fantastically funny, as is the rest of the CD. I also recommend the DVD which provided an extended version of the show and some extras.
Martin Mull: Near Perfect/Perfect (1979)
We go all the way back to 1979 for our next album with the humorous song stylings of Martin Mull. A diverse performer, Martin has done movies, TV, stand-up, he’s also a pretty damn good painter. Bottom line, the man is talented.
This is one of the last comedy albums he did; it was recorded live and runs a little under an hour. It begins with a satirical intro from Los Angeles radio legend, the late Robert W. Morgan that pokes fun at fast food restaurants and move onto Mull doing a mix of songs in different styles (he hits country, disco, tender ballads) and comedy in his “self-centered entertainer” character.
Probably the most entertaining part of the album is Track 5 titles “This Takes the Cake”. It contains some funny stuff from Mull highlighted by the song which features Peter Frampton sitting with Mull and his band. There’s also a very funny bit on saving the forests of the country by using household pets instead of wood.
The album is fairly hard to find but if you can...and you enjoy mildly kitschy late seventies comedy, it’s a nice little gem.
Bill Cosby: 200 MPH (1968)
We finish this round off with one of my all-time favorite comedy albums. Period. As I alluded to at the top of the article, Bill Cosby is one of my favorite comedians. I feel he’s one of the best at the simple but vital art of telling a story onstage.
This album is a prime example of this as he begins the set with some shorter routines on families and animals before launching into the title track. The last track on the album, it runs just over 22 minutes and mainly concerns a car he had made for him specially that can achieve a top speed of 200 mph. It begins with Bill chatting with the audience about cars, knocking the VW as well as the folks who drive them in a very casual manner (this show like many of his late sixties/early seventies albums was recorded in a casino) and moves onto the story which ends with a rare bit of political humor from Bill as he foists off the out of control car on George Wallace.
Bill is at his relaxed best here, I’m sure the casino setting helped that and it’s really a nice throwback album to put on.