Sure, there are those comedy classics out there that everyone out there has heard and most comedy fans can quote directly from. But outside the Cosbys, Carlins, and Hickses there is a whole world of fantastic comedy albums to discover. Here are 9 that may not be readily available at your local Best Buy next to the Larry the Cable Guys and Dane Cooks, but are well worth tracking down.
9. "En Garde, Society!" - Eugene Mirman
Eugene Mirman is a weird, but brilliant, New York based comedian. To give you a sense of Eugenes sense of humor, look no further than how he chose to honor the release of this album. Instead of the usual record release party or round of interviews at an ungodly hour for the zoo crew radio shows, Eugene instead hosted a protest of himself, providing protesters with signs with such comments as "God Made Adam and Eve, Not Eugene." The material on this album, a follow up to his first release The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman, carries much the same tone. Absurdity, social criticism and poo jokes all flow together to make a typical Eugene Mirman comedy set. His moral quandary of whether it is better to get knocked out for your abortion or to go to Papa Johns with the 30 dollars it costs is truly a question for the ages.
8. "Medium Energy" - Todd Barry
When you initially hear Todd's delivery on this album, his first, you will probably think, "Wow, medium energy? Seems a bit generous." Indeed, Todd has a tranquil, slow moving style that eases you into an inescapable comedy rhythm. However, his material is anything but boring. He brings his own unique take to such varied topics as masturbating at an atm, Larry King gloating about not using viagra, sperm bank babies, and why he feels uncomfortable when a girl has condom brand loyalty. Though maybe his greatest moment comes with his vivid description of how he reacts to seeing men with neck tattoos. Let's just say it involves peeing on them on Valentines Day.
7. "Shut Up, You Fucking Baby" - David Cross
Along with Bob Odenkirk, David Cross was half of a comedy team that revolutionized sketch comedy. However, what he is most known for these days is a return to his roots as a stand up comedian. In this double album he gives equal time to all his interests (or should I say things he hates) including his own upbringing as the only Jew in Roswell, Georgia, his fascination with religion, and his rather obvious distaste for George W. Bush and the state of the country. He even gladly reads straight from the items that piss him off, including tales from a book by the uber-creep religious group "the promise keepers" and a poster advertising a new miracle breakfast roll called a squagel. That's right, a square bagel. Though some complain that Cross can be preachy, he still always remains funny. Hearing him struggle with the state of America is far funnier than most comedian's actual "jokes."
6. "The Art of the Slap" - Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster
Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have been doing long form radio comedy for almost a decade on a weekly basis and have released 5 compilation albums, this being their latest and best. For the uninitiated, the concept is rather simple: Wurster calls into Scharpling's radio show as a random character and launches into a conversation that delves deeper into insanity as the minutes tick by. This three disc set is full of classic calls, including a call by a Wayne Knight look-alike who heads up a slapping league, an "extreme cinema" director describing his latest opus 'The Tool Belt Killer," a roided up member of a new Best Buy knock off tech team called "Jock Squad," and even a carp who insists Aquaman is a dick. Though the cornerstone of the collection is the third disc, which contains two epic phone calls with the lead singer of the first rock band to play the top of Mt. Everest. Needless to say, the star studded trek up the mountain does not end well.
5. "222" - Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt's debut album, "Feelin' Kinda Patton," is almost as good as stand up comedy albums get. You know what would make it better? Get rid of that pesky editing. That's exactly what his "bootleg" release "222" gives us, presenting the full 2 hour and 22 minute stand up set that the album was pieced together from. Finally we have an uncut presentation of Patton's take on old men shaving their genitals in the gym, Black Angus, gay mentally handicapped people and why he wants the Apocalypse to happen soon. Not to mention his handy guide of surprising facts about midgets, including that if you lose to a midget in a fight you become one. That kind of stuff is worth knowing.
4. "Nine Sweaters" - Andrew Daly
You may recognize Andrew Daly as that white guy with glasses from Mad TV. Or perhaps that announcer that wasn't Will Arnett in Semi-Pro. But don't let his imdb fool you, for Andy Daly is in fact one of the funniest comedy performers working today. He's best known for his improv and character work, however, and not actual stand up comedy, which allowed him to make a truly unique comedy album. "Nine Sweaters" is a collection of Andy performing nine characters (along with two bonus tracks) that all share the trait of being fairly twisted, mentally unstable people. Best among them are an old Irish man who tells tall tales of fairies and trolls to cover his own violent and sadistic behavior, a leader of a sing-along group whose family is caught and tortured by a group of bikers, and an elderly man fulfilling his lifelong dream of doing stand up comedy with a performance that would make Bob Saget blush. Why didn't they let him just do these characters on Mad TV?
3. "Comedy Death Ray"
If the epicenter of cool comedy in LA is the UCB theater, then the coolest show in town is surely the weekly Comedy Death Ray, a stand up comedy show put on by Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter, two former Mr. Show members. This album captures some of the best CDR regulars, including Office Star Mindy Kaling analyzing the misuse of the word retarded and Paul F. Tompkins discussing the time he saw Fabio and laughed in his face (the only appropriate response). Other stand outs include Jimmy Pardo doing crowd work for 9 minutes until doing his first actual joke and the ever-so-high Doug Benson doing an unstoppable stream of some of his best material. And let's not forget nerd music duo Hard N' Phirm doing a vaudeville routine for the new millennium.
2. "Invite Them Up"
Essentially the East Coast equivalent to Comedy Death Ray, Invite Them Up wins out simply for the fact that the 3 CD and 1 DVD set manages to squeeze in a lot more comedians to help really give you a taste of what the New York City comedy scene is made of. Though not yet famous for his MTV series Human Giant, Aziz Ansari ponders why opponents of gay marriage always have very specific animals in mind that they're afraid people will start marrying. Todd Barry does some audience participation to prove that he is as polite as Gwyneth Paltrow. Stella's David Wain sings a song about a bagel and an orifice. Jon Glaser reads letters from his dad, a disgruntled original member of ZZ Top. And perhaps best of all, David Cross (in character) discusses his controversial procedure for aborting two week old babies with Jon Benjamin. Altogether a fantastic set with over 20 of NYC's best comedians performing at one of the city's premiere venues for experimental comedy.
1. "Impersonal" - Paul F. Tompkins
Paul F. Tompkins, who is known to many as "that fella with the gap in his teeth on Best Week Ever" is not a household name, but his debut comedy album certainly proves that he should be. Although the album is cut together from a one time performance by Paul of some of his older material, it is anything but dated. His wording and delivery, coupled with exceptionally strong material, makes this album one of the absolute best that modern recorded comedy has to offer. Paul spends his time on stage talking about a store that specializes in "elegant balloons," acts out his encounter with a hero at a migrant farmer fantasy camp and analyzes the futility of the continued packaging of prank plastic snakes in dated peanut brittle cans. He even tells a terrifying tale of eating a stromboli, only to find out weeks later that it in fact had been a ghost stromboli. Paul is supposedly going to record a follow-up album in the near future, and it truly cannot come fast enough.