Skyscraper Magazine » The Punch Line: No. 3
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By Rob Browning June 28, 2011

Hey there TPLers: The weather is getting warmer and things are getting altogether more pleasant around the greater metropolitan NYC area, so naturally the progression is to spend more and more time indoors listening to misanthropic yuk purveyors. Let’s see what the comedy tides have washed upon our shores of late, shall we?

First, and certainly foremost for this installment of The Punch Line, is the return of the great NORM MACDONALD [pictured left]. After a pretty long time in the cold, save for a brilliant run of appearances on the Conan-helmed The Tonight Show and a cameo in the last Adam Sandler summer blockbuster, MacDonald is back in the public eye with a new sports show in the vein of SNL’s Weekend Update called Sports Show With Norm MacDonald on Comedy Central. As you might surmise, Sports Show is pretty great. Hopefully the masses and the Comedy Central powers that be feel the same way and it’s renewed for a second season. To heighten the anticipation for Sports Show and educate the ignorant Dane Cook loving masses, Comedy Central aired a new Norm stand-up special called Me Doing Standup (albeit in the middle of a green initiative that urged people to turn off their TVs) to much acclaim, and have now blessed us with CD and expanded DVD versions of same. The Me Doing Standup set as it appeared on Comedy Central is top notch in CD form, but the real awesomeness is in the extended material on the DVD, which adds some ace bonus material and the classic gay pride bit he’s been doing for awhile now. The DVD extra features include Back To Norm, the comedy pilot he did for Comedy Central a couple years ago, and an animated short, as well as his stellar performance at the Bob Saget roast. All of which make the DVD of Me Doing Standup a must-own. Check out the weekly Sports Show on Comedy Central and know that the Norm MacDonald Twitter presence is formidable, expanding exponentially in the wake of his live Tweeting the Oscars. It’s good to have the great one back.

As promised in our last entry, we have a couple of new releases this month from the good people at Rooftop Comedy Productions. First up is the debut from COLLIN MOULTON. Evidently, he’s big with the college set, which may account for the resounding “meh” that Chicken, Stupid invokes in this guy. Think an edgier Orny Adams, maybe. Not terribly difficult, I know. Moulton has okay material, but Chicken, Stupid opens with a bit about his most awkward garage sale moment and continues with the everyman humor for the duration with jokes about Oprah, smoking pot with his Mom, gay uncles, and guy stuff. Not horrible, but also nothing I would go out of my way to check out. You may feel differently. Chicken, Stupid seems like a better option for the Christian Finnegan or Christopher Titus fans out there. As Rooftop Comedy guys go, I’m much more in favor of JOE LIST and his new record So Far No Good. Like Nick DiPaolo and the great Bill Burr, List is a Masshole of high order and comes highly recommended to fans of that ilk. List has been DiPaolo’s live opener of choice for a bit now and you can see why with the sensitive bits digitized herein. Alcoholic overindulgence, roommates, and relations with the opposite sex are covered, and he’s good with the crowd work, too. We’ll definitely be hearing a lot more from List in the future.

In other news from Team Masshole, AZ transplant DOUG STANHOPE [pictured top] has returned with a new CD/DVD set called Oslo: Burning the Bridge To Nowhere. In a curious move from our hero, the recording is the debut release from the new comedy arm of metal bastion Roadrunner Records, Roadrunner Comedy. Recorded in perhaps the most ideal of comedy venues, that being a former Nazi bunker and sewing machine factory in Norway, Burning the Bridge To Nowhere is the eighth live record and fourth DVD in the Stanhope canon. Those familiar with Stanhope can rest assured that the usual sex, drug, and political topics are covered, but Oslo is ultimately a little hit or miss. Don’t get it twisted, it’s better than 90% of the comedy out today, but evidently Stanhope was only given 36 hours to prepare for the recording, purportedly in an attempt to capture the spontaneity of his live show. Lack of prep aside, there is also the small matter of English not being the crowd’s native tongue and the pricey cost of alcohol, a necessary elixir in invoking the Stanhope muse and one that has garnered him quite a death rattle in his cough. Oslo is a decent showing from Stanhope, but one might do well to catch him soon, before his heart, lungs, and/or liver fail.

For those of you that like your comedy a little less confrontational, or perhaps even spawned from the Broadway stage, there is the new MIKE BIRBIGLIA album Sleepwalk With Me: Live. Birbiglia [pictured above] has a new set called My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and isn’t doing the Sleepwalk material anymore, so this would appear to be your last chance is to grab Sleepwalk With Me. Covering the end of Birbiglia’s last long-term relationship, the perils of sleepwalking, and meeting the woman who is now his wife, Sleepwalk is pretty funny, albeit a little more middle of the road than I usually prefer. Birbiglia is working with NPR personality Ira Glass on a screenplay adaptation of this book/play and it’s pretty apropos. Sleepwalk With Me: Live is a fine good go-to for those that claim to be comedy fans but also sport more delicate sensibilities.

Those sensitive types might do well to avoid the offerings we have from the ladies this time around. NATASHA LEGGERO has parleyed her appearances on Chelsea Lately and Last Comic Standing into her first CD for Comedy Central, called Coke Money. Chelsea Lately has been quite the springboard for female comedians of Leggero’s ilk, namely the new school of Whitney Cummings-esque attractive comedians that skew the ugly comedian paradigm. Leggero covers her attractiveness, dating, reality TV, and the women’s movement on Coke Money and does pretty well. We’ll be seeing more of her. Last Comic Standing competitor AMY SCHUMER [pictured left] also has her debut comedy record out this month courtesy of Comedy Central, in between hosting the new show that Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 has, Hoppus On Music, and guesting on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Cutting is pretty crass (again, never a bad thing); Schumer doesn’t play the hot girl thing so much, opting more for masturbation and racial stuff, plus some great off-the-cuff baby naming material. I’d give her the edge on Leggero by a small margin, but both these Comedy Central releases are well worth checking out.

Musical comedy is a slippery slope for me, but even the hater in me can’t front on the new THE LONELY ISLAND CD Turtleneck and Chain. It’s got all of your recent SNL Digital Shorts favorites like “The Creep” with Nicki Minaj and “The Shy Ronnie” stuff with Rhianna. “Trouble On Dookie Island” and most of the interstitial skits prove that Turtleneck & Chain isn’t all gold, but The Lonely Island deserve props for keeping SNL afloat and musical comedy almost relevant in its 36th Year. It fares much better than the recent release from Rhino Handmade that makes available the long-shelved recordings which comedy collective THE STATE made for Warner Bros in 1996. Recorded at Compass Point in the Bahamas, Comedy For Gracious Living is skit comedy in the tradition of The Firesign Theater and National Lampoon, with pronouncedly less humorous results. State obsessives may be excited, but I can see why this has lain dormant for so long. Indie rock obscurists may be excited at the Cake Like-esque Kerri Kenney track, but there is little here on par with the best of The State.

That’s my time, but tune in next time for word on the new Tig Notero and Jen Kirkman records. Tip the staff.