What’s the deal with these “Best Comedy Albums of the Year” lists, am I right? Wow: Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan, and Sarah Silverman? The 90s called – they want their uhh comedians back…
But seriously, folks: those lists always tend to have the same 5-10 albums/specials on them. But there are so many more than that! So that means there are a ton of great ones that don’t get any recognition at all, or much less than they warrant. Here are some of those. From 2015.
Bryan Gutmann – That’s How Scientists Talk
This album is a super compelling argument for comics to never move to major cities. Bryan Gutmann is an Austin comic with like 1,000 Twitter followers and a never-updated website, but on this album he works a packed Spider House Ballroom with a solid 50 minutes of vital, polished material. It reminded me of how people talk about Robert Klein or Richard Jeni, these comics who made observational comedy look so effortless it became cliché. This album is sorta like that. But meaner.
Hampton Yount – Bearable
This album came highly recommended by Twitter denizen and knife addict Jake Weisman, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yount is one of those guys you can tell is smart enough to be as cynical as anyone, but chooses to be relentlessly enthusiastic instead. Over and over on this album, he digs out little ironies where the easy response would be “this is so stupid” and says “isn’t that silly?” Local news is clueless, but in a totally absurd way. Online dating is a total nightmare, but what’s the alternative? Even after going through all the work to lose over 100 pounds in a year, he discovers: welp, still depressed. Isn’t that silly? Yount called his 2009 debut album Unbearable. In this follow-up he takes a long hard look into the modern abyss and concludes… eh, it’s bearable. This album also contains a quadruple entendre.
Sheng Wang – Cornucopias are Actually Horrible Containers
Sheng Wang is one of those guys where it’s like, why isn’t this guy more famous? He’s so funny, and he’s been in the game for a while – first in San Francisco, then for a long time in New York, and now in LA – but I guess he’s just been doing the road and getting really good. And this album, his first, is really good. It captures what is funny about Wang, which is his subdued, off-kilter-cool style. None of this material is super serious, but it is fun. It’s easy to describe Wang as an “Asian Mitch Hedberg,” but really more accurate would be “well-adjusted Mitch Hedberg.”
Emily Heller – Good For Her
You know that big famous distinction between “club” and “alt” comedy? This album is a great example of how that is an old and outdated distinction. Sure, it was taped at an alt-y Brooklyn venue, and sure, Heller fits that popular “hapless nerd” archetype. But all of that is just surface level. Like Stella Adler liked to say, Heller wears her geek persona like a thin veil, or a weird oregano necklace if you will. She’s the sympathetic social outcast right up until it’s funnier for her to be the mean one, or the reasonable one, or the smart one, or the wild one – then all bets are off. Strong comedy ideas and an uber versatile performance. This album is good.
Paul Virzi – Night at the Stand
I heard about this album through one of Virzi’s appearances on Bill Burr’s podcast. The two of them are friends and Virzi has opened for Burr a lot. Night at the Stand is definitely a solidly entertaining first album, but it may be more interesting as part of this subgenre of club comedy that seems to be thriving through the help of podcasts. You can feel the audience packed in for this live show, and they want to cut loose and hear some inappropriate shit. This album embraces all those elements. Pretty straightforward.
Ryan Singer – Immortal For Now
Ryan Singer is trying to create the comedy equivalent of Brian Wilson’s SMILE. This is his third attempt.