If there’s any evidence that marijuana makes you more productive, comedian Doug Benson is Exhibit A. Case in point: Benson has released an album every year since 2008; he’s made two road documentaries with fellow comedian Graham Elwood (2009’s The High Road With Doug Benson and 2012’s The Greatest Movie Ever Rolled); he currently hosts not one but two weekly podcasts, the ever-popular Doug Loves Movies and his stoned talk show Getting Doug With High, and on top of all that, he still regularly tours the country. Benson’s output over the last six years is certainly impressive, but it raises the question of whether his stand-up material is fresh enough to pass muster.
Benson’s new album, Gateway Doug 2: Forced Fun, the “sequel” to last year’s Gateway Doug, suggests that his album-a-year schedule may be working against him. While his affable personality is infectious, Benson’s material is too loose and unstructured to hold a layman’s attention. It’s one thing for him to ramble about how much he loves Liam Neeson or dislikes parades, which has some charm, but it’s another thing for him to do silly impressions for 12 minutes or read tweets onstage yet again. It gives the impression that Benson is just filling time, albeit joyfully. It’s no surprise that Benson shines when he tells anecdotes—like about his short stand-up tour with Tommy Chong or his stoned experiences on a morning talk show—because he brings his fun, laid-back delivery to halfway structured stories. He also gets some points for self-awareness, like how he’s going to charge less for this album because “sequels are never as good as the original.” (For the record, Benson’s a man of his word: Gateway Doug 2: Forced Fun is half the price of Gateway Doug.) But unfortunately Benson spends most of his time babbling, which is about as compelling as it sounds.
Gateway Doug 2: Forced Fun unintentionally highlights the difference between Benson’s stand-up and his podcast material. Benson’s goofy sensibility translates well to being a podcast host; it allows him to play off of other comedians and actors and make them feel comfortable at the same time. It’s generally enjoyable to hear Benson’s good-natured persona in a heightened context. However, Benson’s stand-up is truly a fans-only proposition. It’s not difficult to imagine Benson’s devotees eating it up, but to the non-converted, it’s a bit like listening to a friend’s stoned ramblings while sober: fun for a while, but it quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns.