In 2010, Myq Kaplan had multiple channels at his disposal to prove his cleverness and fondness for wordplay—basically, that he was always a step ahead of everyone else. His debut album, Vegan Mind Meld, dropped in April, followed by a half-hour special on Comedy Central and an appearance on the final season of Last Comic Standing. Meaning his scattershot thoughts—baby ducks are ducklings, so he’ll never order “dumplings,” and so on—were all over the place, and then over pretty quick. Kaplan’s dry wit came in hot bursts; he raced to the end of sentences like he was tuning his comedy to a metronome. He exhausted all his material in that year, and unless they were willing to comb his album like an Arrested Development teaser trailer, it was tough for the audience to keep pace. Comedic prowess need not be expressed by velocity alone.
Meat Robot, Kaplan’s newest effort, begins with a deep breath of self-awareness. He speaks directly to the audience, telling them he doesn’t think he’s better than anyone, except people who angrily quip, “You think you’re better than me?,” and that he understands if not everyone is in his target demographic. Namely, people who understand the word, “demographic.” Kaplan is still a master deconstructionist—he tears down parlance like “Does a bear shit in the woods?” and “Hot as balls” for being less-than-comprehensive and factually incorrect—but does so because these are phrases his dad used to say, or an audience member loudly chuckled at. Or because his grandmother was such a stickler about grammar, she didn’t even let him say, “This is fun” as a child. If Vegan Mind Meld and the rest of 2010 were his NBC pilot season, Meat Robot is season two, where the characters don’t really change, but understanding the intentions behind their madness (see: Michael Scott, Leslie Knope) turns their liabilities into strengths.
Kaplan can still riff into oblivion, going on a run with fake meat names he’s created like “baby back fibs” and “ven-isn’t,” but quickly realizes that he’s trod this ground before. Meat Robot demonstrates that Kaplan’s comedic instincts remain intact. He’s happy to amuse himself by polling the audience on whether they’d rather be deaf or blind, then provide his own hyper-logical explanation as to the best response, citing all the way back to Genesis. But when the audience provides the kind of unpredictable fun his own brain can’t supply, Kaplan is far more game to be wowed. The mechanical linguistic logic that dictates Kaplan’s joy, powered by ball puns so groan-worthy he can’t help but giggle to himself (“I a-BALL-ogize, everybody”), backs off for a second. The album ends with a simple retelling of meeting someone after a show who only wants to tell him jokes. Kaplan suspects they’ll be racist for a myriad of convoluted reasons, but instead, the jokes wind up acting as silly examples of how Kaplan’s willingness to let others into his brainspace can elicit true surprise.