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THE PUNCH LINE: No. 2
By Rob Browning April 13, 2011

Episode number two of The Punch Line here. It’s been a pretty good couple months for the yuks. Lots of quality stuff from the British Isles this time around, plus a couple decent forays from Stateside purveyors as well. Let’s wade in, shall we?

Like I said, comedy from the other side of the pond has been pretty top-notch. First up, the new double JIMMY CARR DVD called Making People Laugh (4DVD). Shot in front of a rowdy Glasgow crowd and marking his sixth DVD release, Carr might be the best smart-ass comedian we have today, with a Cleese-ian delivery that should have anyone with comedic taste laughing out loud. Much of the material has a British Isles’ spin that may alienate/confound the average Yankee chuckle aficionado, but I loved every second of it.

Carr has been known to do a fair amount of comedy writing for a bunch of UK comedy heavyweights, including RICKY GERVAIS [pictured above], who also happens to have a new DVD out called Science (Universal Pictures UK). You can probably guess the loose thematic concept. Gervais covers a litany of topics falling under that broad umbrella, including the bombing of Hiroshima and obesity. He also tips his hand as to what one might receive as a Christmas gift once he perceives an inequity. Those of you scoring at home should be advised: it would be unwise to ask him for a puppy. I always enjoy Gervais’ standup; the new People tour and inevitable DVD seem to bode well for more enjoyment down the line.

Flying somewhat under the radar for American audiences is ANDREW MAXWELL, whose One Inch Punch (2entertain) is perhaps way too Irish for those without a cultural touchstone. He’ll need a little more buzz before he makes his Carr/Gervais turn. Barring that, he has a good shot at the Billy Connelly crown down the line.

While you should be thinking globally, don’t shy away from acting locally, as Stateside comedy video has had a bit of an upswing during the first part of the new year with a new set from PATRICE O’NEAL [pictured left]. It’s been five years or so since Patrice released anything and it’s great to see new material. Elephant In the Room (Comedy Central) is definitely top-notch, although ladies and those with more delicate sensibilities might do well to approach with caution. Fans of Patrice and the Opie and Anthony/Tough Crowd camp are probably in the know already, but if not, be advised.

JIM NORTON has a new record called Despicable (Eat A Bullet). Save for the fact that the album seems like 65-percent old material, it’s pretty solid. Jimmy fans are probably tearing him a new one on O&A for the recycled bits, but more casual fans would do well to check out his most recent ruminations on tranny sex, bowel movements, and relationships. It’s more high brow than that list comes off in print, but not much. If you enjoy your lowbrow humor coming from a little more of a high-minded perspective, Despicable is a decent go-to.

Veteran comedy fans are probably aware BRIAN REGAN has a new DVD. It’s called All By Myself, after one of the better bits on the disc. I go back and forth about Regan. He never really out and out won me over, but the great Norm Macdonald perceptually extolls his virtues, so it seemed prudent to listen from The Great One’s perspective. Regan’s a little more family-driven than I normally go for, but definitely funny. I think the fact that he doesn’t do a lot of cursing also works against him, but recognize that’s both personal and admittedly short-sighted. What can I say? I like profanity.

In other not especially profane notes, those who look for a middle ground between Mike Birbiglia and Mitch Hedberg would do well to check out DAN CUMMINS and his new Crazy With a Capital F (WEA/Reprise). He’s pretty edgy and doesn’t work blue; a rare (but in this anomalous case, funny) combination. Enjoy it while/if you can.

On the profane tip, I had high hopes for the most recent DENIS LEARY special Douchebags and Doughnuts (Comedy Central), as I enjoy both eventualities, but much like the aforementioned duo, I’ve grown more and more disenchanted with the modern versions thereof. Leary’s a loyal guy, and as such has old crony Lenny Clarke on the bill. Clarke is pretty funny, even if a lot of his material gets middle of the road for my taste. Still, he gets more props than fellow Leary co-star Adam Ferrara, who weighs in with a pretty lukewarm set making his boss’ performance seem good by comparison. Leary has a couple decent bits, but unwisely tries to work in some sub-par graph/statistical humor that is best left to insufferable crutch comics like Demitri Martin. Meh.

If anything positive is to be taken from Douchebags and Doughnuts, it is probably WHITNEY CUMMINGS. I hadn’t been familiar with her prior to seeing the recent David Hasselhoff roast, but she got my attention there and won me over with her D&D set. Cummings has a new special called Money Shot (Image Entertainment), continuing her crass (not a negative) observations on sex, relationships, and Twilight. It’s good stuff, as is LISA LAMPINELLI‘s new Tough Love special (Warner Bros.). She married an Italian guy since we’ve heard from her last, so while you can’t expect the usual ethnic humor, know that much of the new material revolves around her current man’s enormous nut sack, rather than her usual commentary on dating the urban set. Any and all are skewered, so insult comedy aficionados should check LL out.

Lovers of more mediocre comedy would do well to dig up the new ORNY ADAMS. It’s called Path Of Most Resistance and is the one stop-shop for people who miss Seinfeld and Ray Romano. I can’t dispute the previous duo’s prodigious talent, but jokes about getting fat and things shrinking in the drier aren’t my normal go-to. Maybe you and your Mom feel differently. AL DEL BENE is in a similar camp. While he does work a more indigo path than Adams, it strays a little too far into Dane Cook territory. He hits every eight or ten jokes, which was sadly more than enough time to for me to pursue other options. For the record, he’s better than both Cook and Adams.

That’s my time for now, but next time look forward to coverage of new Chris Elliott and Norm Macdonald TV features the comedy gods have bestowed unto us. Unfortunately, they’re not together, but one can always hope. The Punch Line has also hooked up with the good folk of Rooftop Comedy, so look forward to coverage of their tidal wave of yuks. See you soon. And don’t forget to tip the staff.

Ricky Gervais photo: Rich Hardcastle