Comedy CD reviews
Werewolves and Lollipops (Sub Pop). Available Tue 10 ($14).
Despite being best known for his nine-year run on the ignorable sitcom King of Queens, Oswalt never toned down his explicitly mainstream-skewering stand-up act. (Uninformed family units have been known to walk out.) His vantage point—self-mocking, belatedly hip outsider bluffs his way through the entertainment biz—makes for comedic gold on his second CD (his first with semi-indie Sub Pop records). The Virginian spirals from the abstract into concrete social critique with vivid comedic images (“Viking sex on a burning ship”) and deep fantasy–slash–obscure rock references (deconstructing a popular KFC menu item as a “failure pile in a sadness bowl” comes around to goth band This Mortal Coil). Oswalt is just as fresh, bizarre and essential when addressing his own shortcomings: He’s “a bridge troll” grazing at the buffet of the Batman Begins premiere. The extended bit on lightweight Washington, D.C. film critic Arch Campbell seems obscure, but it exemplifies the kind of rampant media dopiness Oswalt struggles against.—John Dugan
Paul F. Tompkins
Impersonal (aspecialthing). Available now ($10).
Recognizable on a spate of VH1 talking-head comic-commentary shows as the conspicuously well-dressed one, Paul F. Tompkins has a stand-up career that spans nearly two decades. Impersonal digs into the archives and unearths some of his earliest material for an audience at L.A.’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre. The recording of this one-night–only event finds Tompkins at the top of his game, his deconstructionist style and affable better-than-thou persona burning bright. The disjointed jokes shake out as absurdist observationalism (a store called “Elegant Balloons”; how jazz makes him feel stupid; rants about people who get thrown off by daylight-saving time) spiked with a few personal tales (his run-in with a “ghost stromboli”). While a few tracks are given room to breathe—including a lengthy don’t-miss musing on peanut brittle—most are over before they start to pick up steam. Perhaps fomenting frustration was intentional, as this brief window into Tompkins’s past leaves us wanting more.—Steve Heisler
My Name is Goldberg (IGO). Available now ($9.99).
If subtle humor is a high-five, Jesse Goldberg’s newest music-comedy hybrid is like getting sucker-punched by a woolly mammoth. Goldberg riffs (literally and figuratively) on things like bird poop, vasectomies and Jewishness with a beat-me-over-the-head comic touch. (The title track, set to “Hava Nagila,” proudly proclaims that the writer is Jewish, has a big nose, prays in temple, is supposed to be rich, eats egg matzo and gefilte fish...and so on.) The decision to include scruffy-voiced refrains straight out of a Muppets movie tune means we also get to hear many of Goldberg’s strained, unoriginal chorus lines again—and louder. The album is not without some soft chuckles: On “Otherwise, All the Best to You,” a song that teeter-totters between ex-girlfriend gripes and well-wishes, Goldberg sings, “I want you/To stand up tall/Then a low-flying plane/Can cut you up in two”; and “The Civil War is Over” is smartly set to the tune of “Dixieland.” But the occasional snicker does not make the CD worth purchasing. (Is that caveat emptor subtle enough for you?)—SH