Ryan Stout gives a coy voice to perverse thoughts, a combination that sometimes creates an ideal tension and sometimes just sits uneasily. Maybe that’s the point: On his first stand-up album, Touché, Stout invites the audience to share his bipolar self-awareness, frequently stopping to annotate bits he’s just performed, a habit that saps momentum but keeps the crowd just off-balance enough for the next sick joke. He has plenty of amusingly foul takeaway sentiments—“Look how confident prostitutes are. Don’t you want that for your kids?”—and he’s capable of using his faux-innocent guile to inch sneakily toward the groan line. The album’s title comes from a set-making bit on the comic timing of a nuclear bomb, and at one point Stout jokes about getting a bargain on sponsoring a third-world child. But when he proposes mixing fitness regimens and rape, or reassures women that serial killers are only after the pretty ones, he’s still got one foot on a track already worn knee-deep at every open-mic in the land.
If anything, Stout’s two-toned persona could use a little more contrast. He’s rarely so meek or detached that you can’t hear a twist coming, and he’s rarely so cruel that the twist really comes as a blindside. Touché proves Stout’s polished instinct for squeezing laughter from discomfort and depravity. May he find fresher targets and squeeze harder next time.