Planned, recorded, and almost entirely executed before the comedian's illness and untimely passing in late 2011, Mr. P is Patrice O'Neal's debut album, definitive work, and bittersweet triumph, all at once. Save this document and a handful of television specials, little is available from this "comedian's comedian," as much of his work was for broadcast-and-gone radio, specifically for the "Opie and Anthony" show on satellite, where every Patrice episode was a side-splitting, cherished episode. Here, on this DC Improv gig recording, you get a taste of the easy, conversational, yet highly confrontational comedian's style and how his loyal radio fans couldn't wait for the whole "is that your girlfriend?" routine to escalate into the ultimate dogging of an audience. That happens right off the bat during the excellent "Intro," a casual track that runs over six minutes, because Patrice is just as good off the cuff as he is with a more standard, planned routine. Here, that standard part covers "TSA," the "Race War," and the whole "White Women Are Pleasant" versus "Black Women Get You Refunds" issue, and if that looks like the kind of clichéd routine that Chris Rock loves to skewer, Patrice is old school, although never to a vault. He's of a charming vintage, despite some racial stereotypes aftertaste and the brash "I Like Hoes" finish, and considering how rare his output, Mr. P is an easy recommendation for anyone who likes comedy that's audience-badgering and entirely bold. R.I.P. Mr. P.
David Jeffries, Rovi
On Rodney Carrington's Morning Wood, a couple of the country comic's songs are included twice, in both live and studio versions. It seems to be a requirement of country comedians that they also sing humorous country songs, and Carrington thankfully has a good voice, although his topics are the usual ones. This time around, Carrington's attitude prevails, as he spins out his jokes and relies heavily on audience interaction.
William Ruhlmann, Rovi
For a comedy group that was born and raised in visual mediums -- web videos and the Saturday Night Live television show -- the Lonely Island are still way ahead of the curve when it comes to the comedy album format. Of course, music was at least half the reason links to their series of SNL Digital Shorts would dominate in-boxes every following Monday. The smart mimicry of teen pop ("Dick in a Box"), Euro-disco ("Jizz in My Pants"), or old-school rap ("Lazy Sunday") is half the attraction, and when you add the "aw shucks" look of on-camera Islander Andy Samberg, you can get away with a lot of shocking material. So many mentions of naughty bits would be tedious if Samberg and SNL writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone didn't have the brains to pull it off, and dealing with the differences between races seems much less dangerous when the trio show they're well-versed in the works of their hip-hop guests, E-40 and T-Pain. Their hiring of eccentric underground rap producer J-Zone shows their in tune with what's next and when white rasta wannabe "Ras Trent" complains of his "bomboclat parents" and declares he can make a chalice out of a Sprite can, the snarky commentary is made all the sweeter by a lyric that drops two deep reggae references: "Me night nurse never want to plant de corn." The track has also been updated so that a visual joke from the original SNL version is removed, and with all the interludes and new material, plus fake alternative album covers throughout the booklet, this isn't an afterthought but a fully committed comedy album. On top of that, it's a hilarious comedy album that's just as hip, inventive, and inappropriate as their digital shorts.
No other artist took advantage of the CB craze of the '70s better than CW McCall. Chock full of trucker lingo, his songs bordered on the novelty type and would have been classified as just that if it wasn't for the popularity it gained from radio play. While much of McCall's material is either out of print or extremely hard to find, his Greatest Hits more than suffices. Although outdated, there is still some humor left to be found in some of his campy tunes. His hillbilly drawl is front and center on "Wolf Creek Pass," while terms like "smoky" and "10-4" are hilariously rekindled on "'Round the World With Rubber Duck." His claim to fame, the mighty "Convoy," which was loosely based on protests by truck drivers on state-issued border tolls, hit number one on Billboard's Top 40 back in 1975. McCall rarely sang, as his long-tongued songs usually involved him spinning the yarn while a chorus of females with high-pitched voices sang the middle. "Roses for Mama" was a serious attempt for McCall that was in the same vein as Red Sovine's "Teddy Bear," and "Crispy Critters" sounds like a Jeff Foxworthy offering. The music, which is a light spattering of countrified guitar and banjo, helps to guide the Hee-Haw whimsy of the songs to the height of 18-wheel silliness. Still fun to listen to, but undoubtedly dated, this disc will still conjure up the odd chuckle.
Mike DeGagne, Rovi
A gonzo country comedian in the not-so-grand tradition of Cledus T. Judd, Rodney Carrington delivers a Molotov cocktail of stand-up and satirical songs on his major-label debut, Hangin' with Rodney. While the stand-up material, recorded live in a variety of clubs, is certainly outrageous, listeners will get an even bigger kick out of musical performances like "Dancing with a Man," "Letter to My Penis" and "Fred." Fun-nee!
Chuck Donkers, Rovi
Jerry Clower’s clean, country humor gets proper representation on this well-assembled Greatest Hits, a collection that, since its release in 1994, has launched many a hunting season with some down home laughs. All of Clower’s most colorful characters are here, including Uncle Versie (the king of bird huntin’) Marcel Ledbetter (the king of schemes), and Claude Ledbetter (the king of catching fish). These hilarious, slowly winding stories of growing up in Mississippi are the Southern counterparts to Bill Cosby’s stories of growing up in the city, and just like Bill’s work, Jerry's work is best experienced in its original form. Check Clower’s early releases to hear these bits in the best context, but to be bitten by the bug, check Greatest Hits. You’ll soon know why he’s been dubbed “The Mouth of the Mighty Mississip’”.
David Jeffries, Rovi
Take the rapid wit of Dane Cook and trade his hyper-cockiness for dry wickedness and you've got Daniel Tosh, which is by all means a compliment. Tosh matches Cook's ability to spit wry crassness, but he's more absurd and complex. Much of his material hits two to three seconds after the fact, partly because it takes awhile to unravel and partly because of the "I can't believe he just said that" factor. The title True Stories I Made Up is the least witty thing about this package, but it references a core routine, "Fictitious Disorder," that will one day be thought of as trademark Tosh. The comedian explains how living in denial is easier than reality on the track, and goes off on a long series of made-up stories that connect. It's the brilliant, standup equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine, but Tosh's less obtuse, blunter, edgier, and crueler side is just as funny. Suggesting athletes should be pumped with steroids because he has a high-def TV and wants his sports like his video games ("Who cares if you die at 40, you hate life after sports anyway. I'm doing you a favor") or drawing comparisons between the Abu Ghraib prison and the world of baby photographer Anne Geddes is sick and downright startling when delivered so casually by the comedian. In a lot of ways he juggles and alienates the audience in an Andy Kaufman style but without breaking the rules of standup. It's exciting and subversive and you only need to gauge the audience reaction captured on the disc to see how effective it is. At first they are quiet, probably creeped out, but by the end of the disc they're guffawing. The bonus DVD from his 2002 Comedy Central special is less interesting, either because Tosh hasn't matured his act to the sharpness of the audio portion or because the network's censors shaved off the more risky and rewarding material. It's a letdown, but the audio portion of the set is one sick, twisted, and hilarious stunner of a debut.
Released just over a month after his passing, George Carlin's It's Bad for Ya features the same material as his final HBO special of the same name, which aired in March of 2008, but it's a different recording from a much smoother performance. Carlin was well aware of his odds at the age of 70 -- which is "69 with a finger up its ass" -- but on first listen it's hard not to get the creeps as the comedian obsesses on death, mostly his own, for the front half of the album. There's no solace to be found as his no-nonsense (and no heaven, either) attitude destroys all things comforting, but it is most definitely hilarious. The great thing about nearing death is that you're allowed to forget things, even the important things ("...but it was your daughter's funeral"). While the computer age means dead friends must be deleted from Outlook's address book, the comedian prefers to create a new folder and make his own digital purgatory. With these right-on-the-mark and very 2008 computer references, Carlin proves he's still up to the time and still incredibly sharp as he skewers the modern-day practice of "child worship." He's disgusted with a world where every kid wins and understands file sharing better than old-school playtime ("Do today's kids even know what a stick is?"). This seamless movement from death to parenting and on to blowhards plus conservative America is the masterful stuff comedy students should study, plus Carlin's overall delivery is sharper and faster than most would believe. Here he casts off the misrepresentation that he's just an old rambling hippie doing an hourlong expletive-filled version of "you kids get off my lawn." You've got to be comfortable with the ideas of no God, kids suck, and that America is corrupt to the core, but if you can sit with that, It's Bad for Ya is about 100 laughs heavier than his previous effort, Life Is Worth Losing. The only thing left to mention is the packaging, which looks cheap and divides the set into way too many tracks before redeeming itself by acknowledging Carlin's death with a Zippy the Pinhead quote, a touch the "anti almost everything" comedian would have loved.