The 7 Best DIY-ish Comedy Albums of 2014
This is a collection of the best comedy albums I heard this year that aren’t by like huge rich comics like Jim Gaffigan or Aziz Ansari. Not that there’s anything wroooong with that, just every end-of-the-year list kind of ends up being the same thing and leaving out a lot of good shit that people just made themselves and put online. So this is a bunch of albums like that. And this is by no means all of them, just a few that I happened to find and like. God bless, and enjoy.
Tim Gilbert — Please Help Me I Am Very Sick
I really, really like everything about this album, from the title to the last insane track. Tim Gilbert is a comedian from the same scene in Toronto as Nathan Fielder, and in fact worked with him on the CBC sketch-ish show This Hour Has 22 Minutes. I only mention that because I got this album after Fielder tweeted about it. Anyways, Please Help Me I Am Very Sick combines all my favorite things about standup: silliness, grossness, and meanness. Or, maybe meanness is the wrong word — stuff that makes you wonder whether or not it’s mean. In many of his jokes, Gilbert is kind of the victim and the aggressor at the same time, like a story about how free school lunches are a bad thing because they gave bullies energy to pick on him. Or a gleefully explicit story where he laughs like a crazy person after realizing he came so hard fucking the ghost of a teenage jock that he broke both his legs. The cover likens him to Pennywise from It, but to me he’s more like Lenny from Of Mice and Men if Lenny thought it was hilarious when he strangled that woman, and was also a huge nerd, but in a good way. This is the rare standup album that gets better the more you listen to it, and the title could not be more apt. Thank you. It is good.
Jacqueline Novak — Quality Notions
This is probably my favorite straight-up standup album on this list. At one point, Novak mentions how it’s a cliche that female comedians are always talking about their periods even though she’s never heard a comedian do a joke about her period. Which made me realize, hey, me neither. That cliche is bullshit. And that kind of encapsulates what’s good about this CD — she doesn’t for a second let you forget she’s a woman (okay, maybe for a few seconds), but more than that she brings that one-step-ahead-of-you honesty and uhhh funniness. Like, a bit that takes you through the process of eating a single slice of pizza as though it’s a full meal, or the suggestion that magicians probably hate their dicks because they take up valuable pants space that could be used to hide props. Hahahaha. She runs through lots of comedy ideas over the course of the album because her delivery seems more concerned with going off on quick little tangents than sitting in one bit for too long. I kept thinking her rhythm is sort of like Kyle Kinane in that way, where she’ll introduce an idea almost sarcastically, then go into a kind of arch, colorfully written bit about it rather than make the same point by dryly dissecting the idea.
Joe Mande — Bitchface
Joe Mande calls this a mix tape, which I guess it is, but the format is pretty much the same as a lot of those comedy albums that have like skits and chunks of standup and different little audio odds & ends in there. And if you only know Mande through his Twitter hijinks, you should know that he’s like really, really good at writing standup. Basically every track takes a simple idea like “why there are a lot of Somalis in Minnesota?” or “what it’s like to go to trendy health food cafes” and builds it out into a full and surprising bit as well as anyone I’ve ever heard. He is unmistakably a smart-ass, but that’s the furniture and decoration; the beams in the walls are well-structured bits and carefully written jokes. Also, this was a relatively high-profile album (released through Himanshu Suri’s Greedhead Records), but I’m including it anyways cuz who cares. There’s not enough of these hybrid standup/sketch/misc audio albums out there.
Brock Wilbur — Nightmare Fuel
Nightmare Fuel is the third standup album by Brock Wilbur, who I know mainly as a buddy on Twitter. He’s released these albums on iTunes and Bandcamp through his own record label, Riotsmile Records. I like this album because it’s 61 minutes, but feels like about 100 minutes played at like 1.5 speed. People say one-liner comedians have the advantage where if you don’t like one joke, there’s another completely different one coming right behind it. Well Brock’s album is like that, but with full true stories about his life. Whether he’s talking about dying from smoking after he quit (a cigarette almost burned his building down) or going on an impromptu date with a blind girl at an art gallery (in a nice way — listen to the album), Brock certainly has a keen sense of irony. His style is like if Patton Oswalt was an excited puppy who couldn’t wait to show you a story he just found. Get this album, and leave time to listen to it twice so you catch all the jokes.
Matt Knudsen — American
I just found this album on Bandcamp one day, so going in I kind of had no idea what to expect. But it turns out it’s like the perfect album for that. There are some comics who throw their jokes in your face, and then there are comics who make you come to them for the jokes. Matt Knudsen likes to politely place each one in front of you, and when you’re done, there’s another right behind it. He’s one of those comics who is a throwback without trying to be, like he was just quietly sitting there being really good while everyone else moved on to being really flashy or loud or trying to make a point. Many topics on this album are familiar (Hollywood, America vs. other countries, traveling, marriage, etc.) but done with a really surprising original take that evoke that response of, “damn! He’s right!” This album also contained one of my new favorite jokes: “I told my wife that when I die I DON’T want to be cremated…but I DO want to be scattered all over Venice Beach.”
DJ Douggpound — Up Our Holes
DJ Douggpound is the alter ego of Doug Lussenhop, who’s written for shows like The Eric Andre Show, Portlandia, and Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, but might be best known as the guy behind that distinctive Tim & Eric editing style. I think of him almost like the Del Close of internet videos in that he’s the most influential person nobody’s ever heard of. Anyways, Up Our Holes is an album of songs that have that same sensibility. Genre-wise, it kind of shifts from dance rap to really aggressively dry sketches to…uhh I dunno, it’s just supposed to be fun, and it is. So there you go. It’s worth noting that the songs on here have kind of deceptively big ideas (more than his earlier CD Pound It), like “Find Me,” a song about needing to get away from the city that even name-checks Christopher McCandless, or “Fuck No,” maybe the most “traditional” “comedy song,” about not wanting to give someone a ride to a party. Also, as with most of his other projects, there are connections to the larger world of Pound House, Awesome Show, etc. that you can appreciate if you’re into that, but if that’s not your thing, that’s totally cool too!
Dan Klein — This Is Comedy
Dan Klein does not give a fuck. In fact, he doesn’t even have the part of his brain that could possibly give a fuck if he WANTED to. But of course, that’s an advantage, like how Vincent van Gogh was born with only one ear, so he had twice as much time to look at paintings. This is the first full-length special from Klein, who spends the 67+ minutes breaking down everything from big topics to little topics. He’s like the Terminator of comedy — and if that sounds scary, don’t worry: it is. But learning is always scary. And at the end of the day, you’re just lucky to get on the Dan Klein train early, cuz it’s dangerous to get on moving trains, and also illegal. Seeing Dan now is kind of like seeing Louis CK in 2011: you just know this guy is about to blow up big-time. (I should admit, I didn’t watch the whole thing.)