August 2010

Comedy has gotten much more democratic over the years: It’s no longer limited to guys in clubs or major-network TV shows. With a bit of free time and minimal iMovie know-how, everyone from budding young comics to name-brand stars can carve out some Internet space for their sense of humor. At the same time, traditional outlets like comedy CDs and DVDs are growing in breadth with the art form itself. It’s a great time to be a comedy fan, and Laugh Track, The A.V. Club’s monthly comedy column, will round it all up—new and noteworthy stand-up, sketch, and online video, much of it courtesy of under-the-radar comedians with a little too much time on their hands.

CD: Hannibal Buress, My Name Is Hannibal
It’s surprising that Saturday Night Live writer Hannibal Buress hasn’t had a stand-up album until now. In fact, he recorded My Name Is Hannibal more than a year ago and has been sitting on it ever since. But Buress’ comedy has earned him enough accolades sans CD: This summer, he was named one of Variety’s “10 Comics To Watch,” and he toured the festival circuit—including, strangely enough, the Gathering Of The Juggalos. By necessity, Buress has written a lot of material over the years, and My Name Is Hannibal perfectly captures it all, from early bits about pawn shops and the “fire SUV” to more recent jokes about what to do with excess pickle juice. A few segments date themselves, as when he mentions Lil’ Kim—much more in the public consciousness in 2009 than now—but Buress opens himself up to plenty of asides and ridiculous quips to mostly keep the material timeless.

Here are a few promo videos he made for the album:

And here’s a clip from the College Humor tour:


Internet: Beardyman And Friends
In the hands (or, rather, mouth) of Beardyman, beatboxing is anything but a novelty act. The UK performer takes audience suggestions for two genres of music, plus a topic for a song, then creates the first genre using a looping machine and his voice. He sings part of a totally made-up song, then seamlessly melds the first genre with the second and continues the song. The detail he can pull out of nowhere is amazing, whether he’s doing barbershop harmonies or perfect reggae beats. And the humor not only comes from the words, but the way he keeps the audience on its toes. During epic freestyle sessions, he’ll dip into obscure Michael Jackson hooks and occasionally drop the beat entirely to jokingly berate the audience for not responding correctly. He rarely makes it over to the United States, but luckily, he’s slowly gotten around to uploading episodes in his Beardyman And Friends series—culled from live shows featuring other rappers and dudes in monkey masks. It’s a fairly accurate glimpse of this dynamic performer.

Here are episodes one and two (the second one is in two parts):

And here’s a show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival last year. Sionara, afternoon:


CD: Neil Hamburger, Hot February Night
Neil Hamburger’s purposely bad, sad-sack lounge act divides audiences in an instant. Either you’re in on the joke and appreciate the desperation and filth of gags like “Why did the members of Metallica cut their hair? The hairdresser said it was the only way to get rid of all the matted come,” or you think his jokes are miserable on face value. (One possible third option: You see what he’s going for, but think he’s terrible in his own right. Fair enough.) When he opened for Tenacious D a few years ago, it’s safe to say the audience didn’t know much about him, and they rallied hard for the hacking, sweating guy to leave the stage immediately. But no one fails like Neil Hamburger, and his graceless collapse is the subject of his new CD, Hot February Night. Hamburger gets vicious with the audience, calling out individuals, explaining that he’s making $25,000 for the gig, and touting just how much better he is than everyone else. Meanwhile, he keeps the jokes coming, and doesn’t let the constant boos dissuade him from telling more. His spectacular failure is both mesmerizing and hysterical.

Here’s something similar: Neil Hamburger opening for Faith No More:


Sketch: Mark Little + Picnicface
At the 2010 Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, Mark Little took the stage and delivered only a few minutes of jokes before telling the audience he was going to rap his “hit song” and wanted everyone to rap along. Of course, no one had ever heard the song, so every time Little turned the mic to the audience, he was met with silence. No matter. Even when dropping full sentences, Little bobbed his head along, content to make himself the butt of the joke. The key to his stand-up is how quickly he puts himself in that position: Another joke starts with him describing how some animals naturally put up camouflage to protect from predators—his camouflage, in high school, was acne, to protect from the predator of “self-esteem.” Same goes for the Halifax-based sketch group Picnicface, of which Little is a member. Its videos traffic in the ridiculous and embarrassing, like the differences between a “good touch” and a “bad touch” told in song, or a professor interviewing the continent of Africa. The group is currently raising money for its first feature film, Roller Town, slated to begin production next month.

First, here’s a high-energy set from Little:

Now take a look at the group’s three videos for Powerthirst, a high-octane Gatorade-like beverage:

And, lastly, here’s the video they put together soliciting donations for Roller Town:


CD: Mike Phirman, The Very Last Songs I Will Ever Record (Part 1)
Mike Phirman’s songs—he’s half the popular musical-comedy duo Hard ’N Phirm, with Chris Hardwick—contain jokes on multiple levels. His recent CD The Very Last Songs I Will Ever Record (Part 1) contains the track “Lollytown,” where he announces to an angry crowd that Rage Against The Machine has cancelled, and the replacement (him) sings an over-the-top song about friendship and happiness; the crowd isn’t pleased. There’s also “Irony & Wine,” a sobering acoustic number in which Phirman doesn’t so much sing as breathe heavily into the microphone. The short album contains straightforward comical tracks, like one about being tempted by “street meat,” but those random short musical asides (including mock Spanish learning tapes) tie together Phirman’s off-kilter sense of humor.

Check out “Irony & Wine” and “One For Them & One For Me”:

And here’s Hard ’N Phirm on pi:


Podcast: Earwolf Podcasting Network
The folks behind Comedy Death Ray Radio have expanded their reach, launching a site with room to grow. The Earwolf Podcasting Network is a destination where comedy-podcast listeners can discover new podcasts, read up on the guests, and buy merchandise. So far, CDR is on board (obviously), as are the Sklar Brothers, with last week’s launch of Sklarbro Country, where the brothers banter about current events in sports and entertainment. Earwolf started small, but has a strong touchstone in CDR, a host of forthcoming content currently being worked out, and a nifty website right out of the gate. (You can easily preview multiple clips from podcasts before downloading).


Internet: Mike Vecchione
Mike Vecchione’s stint on this season of Last Comic Standing was far too short, but the New York comic seems to be doing just fine. Beneath his gruff exterior is a softie with a giddy sense of humor, and the joy of watching him comes from seeing how he effortlessly plays against type. Here’s his recent appearance on The Tonight Show With Not Conan O’Brien:


Bonus: The Pod F. Tompkast: By now, you’ve probably heard that Paul F. Tompkins has launched his own podcast, but it bears repeating that it’s fantastic, mixing clips from live shows, interviews, and audio sketches. In the inaugural episode, Tompkins reads Google Voice transcripts from his voicemails and chats with Jen Kirkman about their humble beginnings as comedians. The vibe is disarmingly casual, perfect for Tompkins and his ability to go off on hilarious tangents at a moment’s notice.

Another bonus: High Treason
This video was posted on The Comic’s Comic the other day—a commercial for The Claspell Flour Cat Baby, which is a bag of flour dressed up to look like a cat dressed up to look like a baby. It’s so silly and weird, and the sketch group High Treason, partially responsible for it, is no stranger to the vibe. Check out this other gem from the UCB website.

Yet one more bonus: NTSF:SD:SUV: That stands for National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle, and it seems to be a forthcoming Adult Swim series starring Paul Scheer, Rob Riggle, and a host of other awesome comics. Little has been revealed about the pilot (if there is one) so far, but this trailer gives more than enough reasons to be preemptively excited. For one: an eyepatch mask.