Comedian Nick Swardson lets simple humor get the better of him on CD
Swardson is a performer who bridges two schools or waves of comedy --
the Adam Sandler/David Spade years of SNL and the influence of more
“alternative” performers like the State and Mitch Hedberg.
He is best known for appearing as Terry, the gay prostitute on Reno 911,
and played a similar type of persona on the short-lived Comedy Central
series Halfway Home. On a new CD/DVD on Comedy Central Records, “Party”
(in stores October 23), Swardson presents his stand-up persona, which
isn’t too far off the fatuous self-absorption of those characters,
although in a more heterosexual pot-smoking and partying vein.
The Sandler influence comes through especially in one of two sketch
tracks on the CD, “Blackout Morning,” where he’s recounting with the
help of various answering machine messages all his bad drunken behavior
the night(s) before. It’s all in the Sandler gross-out vein though --
defecating in the middle of people’s houses and actions like that.
Honestly, it’s not even as funny as the way Steve Carell delivers the
name he would have if he were in witness protection, in last week’s
Office episode. Both characters are louts, but Swardson doesn’t present
any irony or wry, dry wit to sell the line.
As alluded to, most of Swardson’s comedy fodder is drugs and alcohol,
with track titles like “Drinking,” “Smoking Pot,” “Party” and “You Had
To Be There.” The album includes a DVD of Swardson’s Comedy Central
Presents specials from 2000 and 2006, and a dismaying thing is that a
good portion of his material from the 2000 special turns up on the CD,
recorded in January 2007, which gives one the idea that Swardson is also
a bit lazy at coming up with new material. In addition, the 2006 special
actually does contain some good pieces not on the CD, which could have
strengthened that part of the package.
Still, there are a few highlights to the CD, usually when he gets off
those topics, although not enough of them. Those are the tracks
“Retarded” and “Old People.” On “Retarded,” Swardson imagines bowing to
the politically correct and inserting “mentally challenged” into
conversation at any point when one would want to say “retarded,” and how
unwieldy that would be. It’s a good bit, with a point, in his act.
The longest and best track on the whole CD, though, “Old People,” is an
inventive imagining of what the current generation will be like when it
becomes elderly, leading to 80-year-olds blasting gangster rap out of
their cars as they drive 5 mph around south Florida. That’s more along
the lines of what the more alternative influences and mentors Swardson
thanks in his liner notes would dream up.
If “Party” had eight or nine tracks that were as inventive as “Old
People” it would be worth owning and repeated listens, but sadly it
doesn’t. Swardson ought to go back to the drawing board for next time
with that in mind.