Emily Heller – Good for Her

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Emily Heller is currently a writer for the TV show Barry and has an hour-long Comedy Central special, among other accolades. She is one of the freshest voices comedy has at the moment. This is one of her jumping-off points, and definitely the first moment we get to see her be entirely her own comedian. She has moved on from doing just stand-up. Emily Heller’s first album Good for Her is a great listen. She also released Pasta in 2018 , and I recommend both. The Comedy Central hour-long special Ice Thickeners has most of the jokes from Pasta on it.

The arc of the album is strong. She starts with stranger wackier ideas and gently moves into more personal material about her relationships. She opens with one of my favorite jokes ever. It is an impression of her mom, who has recently gotten a small dog. It consists of her repeating the dog’s name over and over again with varying levels of aggression. It’s silly, smart, and a complete thought that neither overextends its welcome nor leaves too early. This sets the mood of the album perfectly. Repeating the dog’s name is a strong way for us to get a feel for her voice, and involves a minimal amount of character work that feels both personal and kind of zany.

She then goes on to discuss her childhood as a part of the general “loser” community. She jokes that a lot of people think that she was a nerd, but she was not, as nerds had friends. She then discusses how the popular kids made fun of her through backhanded compliments. One of her wackier jokes appears here, where she says she signed their yearbook with blood. There is a tag on that joke where she goes, “I was dizzy after signing them all” and that tag, to me, is leagues above the joke. The joke comes off as a little out of her voice to me. Of course, the joke is about her during high school and it may be true. The out-there quality feels apart from Heller’s down-to-earth voice, which she uses on the rest of the album.

Towards the second half of the album she discusses how she doesn’t want kids and then how she wants to quit dating, and compares it to basketball. One joke premise is that you can quit basketball but not dating. She then moves on to tell the audience that she would be cool with being single forever. She makes silly arguments and doesn’t ostracize anyone for not having the same point of view. Mostly she just shows how frustrating some people are.

Her delivery is wonderful. She has a mastery of escaping a joke to a point where the escalation of her delivery is enough of a point. She never comes off as sarcastic. If you looked at her pacing, she would look like a step chart. She’s able to escalate jokes at an even pace until she gets to the height of a bit. She comes off as down-to-earth and very conversational.

There is a lot of growth between the two albums. There are great ideas and great jokes in this album, but the structure is less refined. There are a lot of comparisons type jokes, “that would be like if x was y” and “Have you ever gotten so (blank) that (blank) was (blank)” She has a joke about hip hop lyrics, which I think is aggressively well-trod territory. It still feels like it’s own thing as the jokes are her own, but the second album feels even more unique and refined.

This album is strong and fresh. The jokes are sharp, tightly written, and are an interesting mix of silly and observational. I think Heller is one of the strongest joke writers around, and I appreciate that her material doesn’t depend on over-the-top performance.

Four out of five stars. Would recommend.
Favorite Tracks: My Ex’s Girlfriend, An impression to Start

Here is a link to her hour on Comedy Central, which you can watch for free on youtube. It’s called “Ice Thickeners.”

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