Laugh Track: November 12, 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 weekly comedy blog, 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: James Fritz, Deflated
Last summer, I spoke to Kyle Kinane for a Variety article and wound up talking for a while about his strange experiences in show business, most of which didn’t make it into the final piece. It was strange to him how quick people are to define his “style” in an attempt to understand the deeper motivations behind his comedy—as if his persona were somehow an act he was cultivating. That simply isn’t the case; he’s a compelling performer because there’s nothing to figure out. Watching a night of Kinane stand-up is similar to hanging out with the guy, and he works hard to ensure that’ll always be the case. For some stand-ups, irony is becoming a casualty, and there’s a groundswell of young comics realizing there’s nothing to hide behind. Their most personal stories become their greatest asset, and they find their voices very early. (That’s not to say some comics can’t do sardonic humor wonderfully, like Anthony Jeselnik.)
Chicagoan James Fritz, a friend of Kinane, similarly lays all his cards on the table. He kicks off his new album, Deflated, with a rant targeting those who shame him for not going outside during summer, which turns into a tirade about the sad, constantly deflating air mattress he sleeps on each night. It becomes part political and part personal—and all shouting. When it ends, Fritz laughs to himself. “Rule of comedy: Wind yourself on joke one,” he quips. “I’ve got 10 more of that joke in me before I die onstage.”
The album never again reaches the volume of that first joke, but retains its intensity, intelligence, and willingness to mine Fritz’s vulnerabilities about the state of his life. Romance and politics prove rich topics and his takedown of homophobes attacks the flimsy ways they justify their actions, particularly those who claim to be all right with gays as long as they keep their business out of people’s faces. (“Where do you live where gay dudes are fucking in your face all day?”)
The best part of Deflated is the realization that the conversation probably continues after the show, at the bar.
Internet: Broad City
The duo behind Broad City, a loosely scripted slice-of-life series, has gradually increased its ambition. The beginning of its first season focused on the two lead women and the ways they deal with everyday situations; later episodes manufactured more chaos by including the performers' moms and special guests like Hannibal Buress. The season conclusion, released earlier this week, is a neat homage to a bunch of Spike Lee movies. The grander the goals, the more fun the duo appears to be having.