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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Make your own mix CD of 2011's funniest comedy

YOU CANT AFFORD NOT TO HAVE IT
  • YOU CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO HAVE IT
If you find yourself in one of those Christmas present emergencies, but have a half-hour, a blank audio CD and a credit card number, here's a way to generate a highly entertaining present that'll make you look well-versed in contemporary comedy. Comedy albums, like graphic novels, tend to be the kind of presents that non-fans probably wouldn't seek out on their own, and thus enjoy receiving all the more. Here's an assortment of some of the best tracks from comedy albums released in 2011, with links to their individual Amazon pages. Feel free to use this as a jumping-off point for your own picks. When it doubt, buy the longest available track on a given album, since you get more for your money and long, accumulating anecdotes often hold up better to repeat listenings than strings of one-liners.

Patton Oswalt: "The Ham Incident" (3:36). Oswalt's description of a grocery store encounter is worth it just to hear him pronounce the sentence, "I want all the ham," but also offers a great example of Oswalt's gift for taking familiar items from pop culture and turning them upside down.

Baron Vaughn
: "Cat People" (4:36). Vaughn's debut album occasionally touches on familiar topics, but this riff about how felines can drive people crazy shows off his fondness for tolerable puns, weird flights of fancy and antiquated ways of speaking.

Marc Maron: "Earl's Rooter" (7:15) Maron also talks about being a cat person with the painful self-consciousness that's his trademark. But listeners not used to Maron's confessional style might better appreciate his chagrined account of his home's broken sewer line and an unlikely rescuer. (Maron plays The Laughing Skull from Jan. 19-22 next month.)

Josh Gondelman: "People in the Midwest Are Really Nice" (9:04) On his debut album, the former preschool teacher mixes self-deprecations with boyish enthusiasm. He's highly appealing in this account of a one-night stand that takes an awkward turn. Plus, it introduces three consecutive tracks about sex.

Amy Schumer: "Swedes" (3:06) Schumer is probably neither as naive nor as reckless as her stage persona (for her own well-being, I hope not). This bit features two uncomfortably inspired riffs on blackouts and foreskins, respectively. (Incidentally, Schumer performs at the Punchline on New Year's Eve.)

Doug Stanhope: "Blort" (7:52). Fresh from a terrific guest appearance on "Louie" as a suicidal comedian, the real Stanhope conveys world-weary disgust with practically everything, himself included. Here he asserts that for all our cultural obsessions with sex, it's surprisingly samey, and he hilariously envisions what a truly transcendent orgasm would be like.

Michael Ian Black: "Dr. Coconut" (3:43) How better to follow-up three tracks on sex than with three tracks about parenting? Michael Ian Black applies is deadpan archness to Halloween, first when he describes his son's initially lame but increasingly creative costumes, then pivots to how his neighborhood parents turn trick-or-treating with their children into a booze cruise on foot.

The Sklar Brothers: "Fairy Tales" (6.55) The Sklar Brothers could be stand-up comedy's answer to the Winkelvii from The Social Network as a pair of twins who might as well be one person. In performance, they finish each other's thoughts and volley odd turns of phrase back and forth with an almost musical rhythm. This bit includes their irritation with the famous "rhyme," "Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman."

Louis C.K.: "My 7 Year-Old is Better Than Me" (6.22) Having started with Patton Oswalt, the disc winds down with stand-up's other reigning comedian, Louis C.K., whose never better than when he talks about the demands of parenting. The centerpiece of this discussion of his elder daughter comes from his attempt to walk back his casual remark that one day, the son will blow up.

The Book of Mormon: "Hasa Diga Eebowai" (4.24) No anthology of 2012 comedy would be complete without a mention of the Tony-winning Book of Mormon (available in its entirety for $4.99!) The musical about Mormons missionaries in Africa has so many uproarious tunes, it's hard to single out just one, but "Hasa Diga Eebowai" provides a joyously profane satire on "Hakuna Matata."

Bonus track
Tig Notaro: "Can You Believe It" (1:34) Tig Notaro's deadpan, 11-minute discussion of her recurring encounters with 1980s singer Taylor Dane is one of her best bits, but is not available for download. Boo! But this brief bit is funny in its own right, and you can get it here for free! Yay!

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