These days, most stand-up albums exist as audio siblings to televised specials, with maybe a couple bits that didn’t end up in the special. Many of them are consumed purely in digital form, not as physical media, so comedians unsurprisingly don’t give much thought to format. (That’s especially frustrating on albums where bits rely on the audience being able to see the comedian.)
Rory Scovel goes in the opposite direction on his second stand-up album, Live At Third Man Records, which Jack White’s boutique label originally released on vinyl in December. (It was released digitally this month.) The format heavily informs the content, with Scovel vowing at the end of side one to kick everyone out of the room and record side two by himself. But side two begins as “side three,” with Scovel mid-bit (“So that’s what I said to her. I said the N-word! I can’t believe you guys laughed at that!”) and deciding things are going so well that he’s going to cut all the stuff he did by himself beforehand. It’s all part of the joke, as is the abrupt end of the album, where Scovel is just about to make an off-color joke as he runs out of time on the LP. People who downloaded the album digitally might miss the joke at first, but it still works in MP3 form.
Those aren’t the stranger elements of Live At Third Man Records, either. Scovel spends the first six minutes or so performing with a terrible German accent (it’s unclear if the dated jokes about Germany are supposed to be similarly shaky) before segueing into another five minutes as a “cool preacher” character, which is a better fit for Scovel’s Southern accent. Side two is more straightforward stand-up, though Scovel enjoys the occasional weird tangent (see his repeating “Jason!” in “Jason’s Dick”). It’s easy to see the influence of David Cross on Scovel’s material, particularly his bits about 9/11, racism, and Mormonism. Cross had a long bit about Mormons on Bigger And Blackerer, and Scovel’s abrupt closing joke would’ve fit in perfectly on that album, too. Like Cross, Scovel was clearly shaped by growing up in the South, and he has a similar predilection for conceptual weirdness.
Scovel hinted at all of this on his debut album, 2011’s Dilation, but Live At Third Man Records is a considerable step up. It’s a bold, aggressive album that shows an ambition missing in a lot of other stand-up releases.
Editor’s note: The initial press release for Live At Third Man Records was incorrect. It will not be available digitally, only on vinyl via Third Man Records.