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Surviving The Game

Comic performer Chris Gethard turns storytelling into stand-up, playing up his persona on new album

 

By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief

 

Comedic actor and talented improv performer Chris Gethard has delved into stand-up in his own way, which is captured on “My Comedy Album,” released by Don Giovanni Records, a Brooklyn-based punk rock label, on April 22.

 

Before considering the album as a whole, it bears mentioning that one piece on it, “I Survived (A Joke About Advertising)” while really effective as material and in performance, is actually too horrific and disturbing to qualify as funny. Gethard himself even seems to recognize this in one offhand comment in the middle of the piece. In short, he recounts watching a disturbing late night show called “I Survived” featuring stories of those who survived horrible crimes and accidents that by all accounts, they should not have – in ugly, sickening detail. The joke is supposed to be the innocuous or wildly inappropriate commercials airing in the middle of these stories – like an eHarmony ad in the middle of a story involving rape. But the gruesomeness of the actual survival stories is just too much and overwhelms any humor that could have come out of Gethard’s point in relating this.

 

All that said, there are good parts to this album, especially the longer pieces “Alan Rickman” and “Bonnaroo,” which capitalize on Gethard’s skill as a storyteller, seen previously in monologues both solo and with “Assscat” show performances at the UCB Theatre, and his own book, “A Bad Idea I’m About To Do” (see review, 2/7/12).

 

What makes Gethard so compelling when performing such extended stories is the way he pulls an audience into his self-deprecating spiral. “It’s unacceptable,” he says, emphasizing that age 32, he’s too old to be tattooing Smiths lyrics on his arm, even though he did. This streams out of the crazy break he re-tells in “Bonnarroo,” in which an uncharacteristic ecstasy binge leads to the realization that he should break up with his girlfriend he’s dated for eight years. Gethard carefully paces out the steps of the binge – not having done drugs for several years, but then at the Bonnarroo music festival, buying all he could with the cash he had on him, then withdrawing $300 and spending it all on more ecstasy.

 

Similarly, “Alan Rickman” is a tale about what happens in Gethard’s dating life after that break-up, again with bits of that self-deprecation thrown in, namely how he can’t believe he’s having such a wild time with anyone, in New York. Perhaps it all stems from something he relates in “Mother’s Day,” a shorter piece on the album, which recounts one of the more humiliating things that could possibly happen to anyone.

 

Aside from “I Survived,” Gethard’s “My Comedy Album” is a good chance to hear what Gethard can do with storytelling, which hasn’t been available in audio form like this before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feedback? Email michael.shashoua@jesterjournal.com

© 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua