Comedy review of 2010

This is not an exhaustive review of the year, just what I have personally seen, read or listened to. And it’s only stand-up comedians, and only things released in 2010.
Side note. Why are all the “mainstream” releases on DVD only? I get it for someone like Lee Evans, who doesn’t have jokes, just body motion propelled sweat, and is therefore mostly visual, but for most stand-ups, an audio CD is good, and for me, preferable. I’m just saying I’d like the choice.

CD’s

Myq Kaplan – Vegan Mindmeld.
Almost winner of some TV standup comedy talent show in America, Myq like words, and puns. This should irritate me, but he’s very clever with it, and instead of being annoying, he gets me everytime. When I say puns, don’t think Tim Vine or relentless one liners, like Jimmy Carr, but a well crafter set that inserts word play whenever possible. Check out his album on iTunes. or go to his website myqkaplan.com/

John F O Donnell – Live from outer space part 3.
John is a standup working in New York. He’s got a manic fast paced style, and his craziness always gets a laugh. He’s currently putting out this album for free. All you have to do is email him (details on his website intothewildcomedy.com/ ) and he’ll email you the mp3. Send him some cash and he’ll send you part 1 and 2. He’s definitely one to watch out for and for free, you can’t really go wrong.

Keith Malley – Can you imagine
One half of the excellent podcast, Keith and the Girl (katg.com) every year Keith put out a CD/DVD of new standup material. Performed once, recorded on the first performance, never repeated. As a result, the performance can be a little rough, bits that would change over time as comedians judge the crowds reaction and change things from show to show are there. But the result, is great. Each of the seven albums is loosely based around a theme and are full of thought provoking rants. Keith’s world view can be jarring, it’s hard to argue with his logic though. A great example is his “Don’t Vote” track.
Much as I like Keith’s standup, I’m not entirely sure it would hold its own if it wasn’t for “knowing” him through his podcast. Maybe he gets away with things that others couldn’t and makes assumptions about his audiences knowledge of him and his style. Maybe. Check out a free 15 minute sample here http://vimeo.com/8169551

Now, onto the more mainstream DVD releases

DVD’s

Simon Amstell – Do Nothing live
Simon’s first outing into standup comedy, and a successful one, as he turns his legendary attacking wit inwards on himself. If you like him in Buzzcocks this should be a no brainer. For some reason it was quickly discounted, and can be had for around £6.

Ricky Gervais – Science
Ricky Gervais at his, well, not his finest. I think he liked the idea of a science based theme, but didn’t have the material for it. And as someone who has followed his various podcasts, lifting a piece, verbatim, from Karl Pilkington and passing it as his own, is unforgivable. For me this ruined the set, which I don’t believe was as strong as his previous three DVD’s. Still good by most people’s standards, but the lack of focus on a clearly defined theme and lifting bits from Karl (even if Karl gave him permission, it’s so obvious so his podcast listeners that it doesn’t matter from an audience point of view if it’s done with permission) makes this not his best work.

Dave Gorman – Live
Dave Gorman is the king of powerpoint. This DVD is only available through his website, davegormanstore.com. Dave is a great story teller, and makes maths interesting and funny, all harnessing the incredible power of powerpoint. It has a similar feel to his googlewhack adventure DVD, and I think is better than it.

Richard Herring – Hitler Moustache
Richard Herring is a really hard worker. He just wants to be on the telly! I can’t think of a comedian who puts himself out there and gives away more free stuff than Richard Herring. But despite his Fist Of Fun days almost 15 years ago, has never really made it really big. It’s a shame, as his sets are always well thought out, full of good jokes, have a strong theme, a good concept and ambition. I think his delivery lets him down. I find that he’s not confident enough about his material to really own it, instead he’s asking the audience to join him, rather than telling them and assuming the authority. I think if he was a bit more assured with his delivery the audience would be right there with him. As it is, he’s a prolific comedian who just doesn’t have the extra edge.
Despite this, I really like his stuff and will be seeing him for the third time in as many years in March. As well as listening to his 6music show with Andrew Collins and the pairs independent podcast.
This years DVD offering is his Hitler Moustache project. He grew a toothbrush moustache to see if he could reclaim it for comedy and Charlie Chaplin from Hitler. The show explores the difficulties of living with this facial hair and explains through logic how the BNP are less racist than liberal Guardian reading types!

Stewart Lee – if you prefer a milder comedian please ask for one.
Stewart Lee if my all time favourite comedian. He absolutely gets how an audience works, comic timing, what is funny as well as why. Every show he does he makes deliberately hard for himself, and then delivers on it. In this DVD he explains his battle with Care Nero, how he would have liked Richard the Hamster (not a real hamster) Hammond to have been decapitated in that crash, and the importance of context within comedy. My personal DVD of the year.

Sean Lock – Lockepedia
Sean Lock is a happy curmudgeon. An odd combination. The DVD is funny, but nothing that will stay with you.

Dara O Briain – This is the Show (TITS)
I like Dara’s combination of crowd work and his set pieces are always clever and funny. His review of the film 2012 is definitely worth seeing. If you like him on mock the week, you’ll like this.

Kevin Bridges – The Story so far
I’m afraid Kevin Bridges is one of a group of comedians who are very forgettable, content wise. I know I’ve watched it, I know I laughed. Can’t remember any of what he said though.

American – The Bill Hicks Story
Not a standup DVD, but a biographical documentary. Superbly done, with the little footage and pictures they had, mixed with interviews with friends and families, this documentary will bring you closer to one of the greatest comics of all time than ever before.

Frankie Boyle – If I could reach out through the tv and strangle you I would
If you’ve read about or seen the fuss over Tramadol Nights, you will be very familiar with this. The standup parts are identical, and just as lacking in context, focus, or actual comedy. This is horrible. A real case of punching down. Frankie always used to complain that the BBC censored him, and didn’t allow him to do the hard hitting political stuff. Where is that hard hitting political stuff now? Is it hiding behind the Susan Boyle is ugly jokes? Or is it next to the jokes about Katie Price’s disabled child? Fuck you Frankie, you’ve put me on Katie Price’s side of an argument.

Bill Bailey – Dandelion Mind
Bill has lost it. What he had before was really memorable songs and stand out musical ditties. In theory it’s all still there, but it doesn’t have the edge of Bewilderness.

Lee Mack – Going out live
Lee Mack has a very solid set, and he gets a lot of jokes out. It’s a lot of wordplay, not quite puns, but not story telling jokes. Somewhere in-between. I’ve also been watching quite a bit of Not Going Out this year, which is very similar, as it should be as he wrote it!

Jim Jefferies – Alcoholocaust
The man is a drunken genius. But the DVD wasn’t as good as he was in person live. Maybe it’s because his set wasn’t the same, and he repeated a major routine as part of it. I think possibly he was told he couldn’t do the set as is for commercial DVD release so substituted one of his most famous bits in. Either way, one of my comedians of the year.

Gigs

Marc Maron
Marc is an American comic who most of the British readers wont have heard of. This is a shame as he’s one of the most intimate, open and honest comics I’ve seen in a long time. He manages to connect with the audience with tales of his life, insecurities, and thoughts. He’s an experienced comic and it shows in his ability to casually own the stage. He has a podcast (free) which is one of the best going. Each episode he interviews a different comic and as on stage, it gets way beyond most interviews, and you really feel like you’ve had a heart to heart with the interviewee. In the past he’s interviewed some of my favourites, Stewart Lee, Doug Stanhope, Jim Jefferies, some big names, like Robin Williams, some controversial, like Carlos Mencia, and a lot you may not have heard of, but will want to look up after his interview.

Stewart Lee.
I was If you want a milder comedian this year and it’s very close to being my favourite gig of the year. I think he possibly ties with Jim Jeffereies. The delivery was as flawless as his DVD’s, he doesn’t let up just because it’s a smaller venue. What really stood out was how grateful he seemed afterwards while signing DVD’s. His on stage arrogance was replaced by someone who is genuinely pleased that you’ve come and enjoyed his act. This is why he’s the best.
I had tickets to see his Vegetable Stew gig in Cardiff, but this was postponed to later this year for personal reasons. I”m really looking forward to it. He’s still touring the show, you should definitely see if you can get a ticket.

Richard Herring (Hitler moustache)
Again, not much different from the DVD, which shows a consistency in the material and delivery, this is a comic you should not miss live if you get the chance, and, as a good comic does, he is touring again. This time rebooting his Christ on a Bike tour.

Jim Jefferies
As I said above, this was a fantastic gig. Jim was on top form and the crowd really let him lead the way. He’s a very forthright comic. He doesn’t hold back at all, and his stories about the two girls at the Canadian comedy festival and the one about his porn star ex were face achingly funny. Also until you’ve seen a man attempt to sell a “Cunt” mug to an audience, well, you just haven’t lived

Tim Minchin
 I think I”m the only person in the world who doesn’t find Tim Minchin funny. Certainly the only person on twitter. Don’t get me wrong, he comes across as a really nice person, I just don’t get his act. I usually find that musical comedy is trying to mask the fact that the set is devoid of any actual jokes, and the audience is tricked into thinking its clever because it rhymes. It works for some people. I did like the Ginger song, and the pope song.
Anyway, I saw Tim Minchin at Camp Betival. I really tried to go with an open mind, and to be honest, he didn’t manage to change my mind. He got to the last song, the Ginger song, and he lost it, the words just went from his head, and his crowd work at this point was the first bit to raise a laugh from me, not because he was failing at the song, but because he was being funny.
Doodling along on the piano he tried to remember how the song went, and was obviously not going to get anywhere, when out of no where, a man in the audience starts playing along on his trumpet(!) that he just happened to have with him. Trumpet man played a phrase of the song, Tim Minchin played a phrase back. After a minute it became obvious the trumpet player could play, and Tim beckoned him on stage. What followed was about 5-10 minutes of improved piano vs trumpet battle. It was one of the most memorable and astonishing moments I’ve seen at a comedy gig, and that is why you should go to live gigs.  

Books

Keith Malley – The Great American novel
Keith writes how he talks. This is both a good and bad thing. A good thing, because when you hear him talk, there’s a tone to it that tells you where he’s coming from, and a bad thing, because it may mean you need to have heard his podcast or standup to get the book. However as the book is only available through Keith’s website at katg.com/store, it’s not likely you’ll read it without knowing who Keith is.

Sarah Silverman – The Bedwetter: stories of courage, redemption and pee
A brave an frank book. Bedwetting is one of the least embarrassing of the stories Sarah tells in this book, with one or two genuinely fist in mouth moments.

Dara O’Briain – Tickling the english
A tour diary, Dara’s banter comes across well in the book. You wont get more out of it than watching one of his DVD’s, but it’s a pleasant read.

Stewart Lee – How I avoided my certain fate
I’ve previously reviewed this here In short, read it, read it now, any comedy fans who haven’t read this are wasting their time.

Richard Herring – How not to grow up
Richard tells the story of his 40th year. This is where it becomes apparent that his comedy lacks delivery, because the hesitance doesn’t come across in the book, and it’s an entertaining read. I believe it’s loosely based on his “Oh fuck I’m 40” tour, which I haven’t yet seen.

Coming up in 2011

Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle and Vegetable Stew.
Stewart got a second series of his brilliant “Comedy Vehicle” which is due to start recording this month.Watch out for it on TV. A DVD of his latest tour is likely to follow shortly afterwards.

Marc Maron has just recorded a new CD, I don’t know when it’ll be out, hopefully this year. For now, “Final Engagement” and his podcasts are excellent listens. marcmaron.com

Jesse Joyce is another New York based comedian. His debut CD, Joyce to the world was a brilliant CD and I’m looking forward to his second. It’s due out on the 18th of Janurary and you can pre-order here.

Marcus Brigstocke – Godcollar book (gig review). The tour happened in 2009, and Marcus says there wont be a DVD, however he’s working on a book based on the act. The gig was amazing, and I have high expectations for the book. Macus’s twitter indicates he’s currently working on the book, so it may be 2012 before it’s released, depending on what stage he’s at!

So, that was my comedy 2010. How was yours? Any recomendations?
 

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