100% Half Assed may be the debut comedy album from Ian Edwards, and the first to be released on Conan O’Brien’s new Team Coco label, but Edwards is hardly a fresh face in comedy. He’s one of those writers and comics who’s been consistently working big for years, including writing for The Boondocks, Saturday Night Live, and 2 Broke Girls. So it’s fitting that Edwards’ debut album feels lived in, his set a tight and efficient 50 minutes.
Edwards’ delivery and content brings to mind Louis C.K., mainly through his observational humor with a surreal twist. Jokes about relationships, weddings, poverty, and karate lessons almost always start out mundane and then take a left turn. There’s great misdirection to Edwards’ style, specifically early on, where one of his best bits involves attending a wedding and wishing he were single. It’s a simple premise, but a late-joke twist about the groom brings the joke to life. When Edwards is at his best, he’s subverting traditional gags about gender, love, sex, and race by pointing to the redundant and retrograde nature of such jokes.
The album falters when he’s perpetuating such tired stereotypes, though. Where some of his best jokes are delivered with a pointed critique in mind or hinge on Edwards’ knack for storytelling, his worst moments come when he falls back on sitcom clichés, concocting one-liners that wouldn’t be out of place on, well, 2 Broke Girls. Jokes about the differences between men and women fall particularly flat, if only because they’re rooted in the exploration of a universal trope that feels tired and dated.
Still, Edwards mostly avoids such deteriorated jokes and finds a nice rhythm when riffing on and bringing levity to more political situations. There’s a bit about poverty and his jealously of a kid who had food poisoning, because it meant that the kid actually got to eat and taste it again, as Edwards puts it. The album’s finest moment involves Edwards mentioning a relative who was a slave who bought his freedom and then sold himself back into slavery for a profit. It’s just the kind of joke that keeps 100% Half Assed alive and kicking, reckoning with notions of identity and culture while never losing the cadence of the punchlines. Edwards may have some more simplistic comedic tendencies, but more than anything, 100% Half Assed shows that he has some serious storytelling chops that can vividly capture situations mundane, solemn, and surreal.