As a comedy album, Finest Hour generates more than enough laughter to justify the price. Oswalt's reading of the line "I want all the ham" alone can send drivers off the road if they're listening on their commute. Finest Hour also marks a point in Oswalt's evolution as one of the best comedians of his generation, adding a greater maturity to his stinging social commentary. (Note: I’ll contrive to avoid spoiling actual punchlines on the new album.)
Oswalt has been and continues to be the kind of master of invective who uses words like ninjas fling bladed weapons. He may be one of the founders of The Comedians of Comedy, but generationally, his peers include such blistering authors as H.L. Mencken, Harlan Ellison and Hunter Thompson. You can imagine Oswalt lingering over his language as he works, beta-testing adjectives and evocative phrasing until he comes up with a pungent gem like "swamp ass and nut fog."
Part of the reason Oswalt's “KFC Famous Bowls” seized such attention was the scathing originality of lines like “I want a failure pile in a sadness bowl” to describe fast food. Finest Hour’s encore even revisits that routine, which he initially dismissed as a silly observation compared to his more substantial material. Oswalt's take on KFC Famous Bowls took on greater life as a snapshot of declining American standards, served up in a bowl of gravy and chicken skin. On Finest Hour, Oswalt addresses KFC's even more outlandish culinary experiments of subsequent years, and uses the notion of "fast food side effects" for hilariously freaky imagery of Biblical proportions.
Personalities like George W. Bush, Paris Hilton and George Lucas could fill the younger Oswalt with bloodthirsty animosity, but its hard to imagine today's Oswalt making a joke about violence a la “At Midnight I Will Kill George Lucas With a Shovel.” His political shots take on a more playful quality on Finest Hour, such as his observation that we don't have to respect the beliefs of everyone. We should acknowledge their beliefs, but reserve the right to say "That's fuckin' stupid — are you kidding me?" He uses the concept of "The Invisible Anus" to illustrate his point.
Perhaps Finest Hours best moments involve Oswalt's ingeniously crafted caricatures, which provide superb fusions of imaginative writing and robust comic acting. (Perhaps no performer alive today has such a command of bleats and squeals.) He describes how he'd only play a gay best friend in a movie rom-com if he were dumb and tongue-tied with comedic quips: “I’ll keep all the gay-best-friend rhythms, I just don’t want anything helpful or intelligent to say.” In "The Burroughs of Carbs" (available for free), as if revisiting the AA themes, he talks about the lack of compelling stories among Weight Watchers participants, and spins a yarn of binging on nine boxes of hard pretzels in sleazy Juarez motel. Oswalt's rogue's gallery includes the Zorro of vomit-bag users, the avatar of the god of slobbiness, and an impression of how Elton John would sing if all performers were treated like circus animals.
Oswalt's material about parenting, whether he's dancing with his daughter or deflecting his own mother's defensiveness, take him to territory comparable to Louis C.K.'s accounts of family life. Both comedy stars also specialize in self-deprecating gags about being fat and out of shape, but where C.K. tends to be rueful and apologetic, Oswalt tends to be more defiant. He may be disgusted with everything he sees, including his smelly, sweat-panted body, but he seems to feel a liberating joy when he unloads on American idiocy and his own bad habits. Oswalt's comedy could be called a success pile in a hilarity bowl.
I went to the quarterly briefing last night and several points that are mentioned in…
Sarcasm check on Aisle 13.
Nomadologist: When I went to the southwest planning meeting last year, they said that the…
If this thing gets all tied up in the courts (and the curtain pulled back:…
"Watch out for that odd bedfellow"
You could wake up with fleas!
Lucy is a little busy right now: