Todd Barry – The Crowd Work Tour

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I see a lot of bad crowd work. Maybe it’s an open mic and the comic hasn’t had time to make a connection with the audience. Or it will be an open mic, and the comic will ask the audience a question, for no real reason, as the joke doesn’t require their answer to be told. This leads me to say that I usually hate crowd work. But I love Todd Barry, and his crowd work album is wonderful.

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Jeff Garlin – Our Man in Chicago

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Back in the day, the idea was that your special was there to advertise your shows — to get people to come see you at a comedy club, or in a theatre show. This is the most effective special I have seen in accomplishing this goal. Jeff Garlin’s special Our Man in Chicago shows, better than any other special I’ve seen this year, what a good comedy show feels like. The focus of the special is the entire show, not just Garlin showcasing his best jokes.

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Jeff Dunham – Besides Himself

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In the office the other day I heard someone talking about Jeff Dunham. It was the first time I had heard anyone in this office talk about stand-up and the first time I’d heard that name in years. I was not part of the conversation, just overheard it a few cubes over, and my reaction was to roll my eyes and put my headphones on, mentally dismissing Dunham as the puppet hack. At my parents’ house, my sister would watch Dunham, along with Larry the Cable Guy and the Duck Dynasty show. Growing up, I knew Dunham from his catchphrases that would be yelled at random on the bus, or in class to annoy the teachers. I was never interested, and never actually watched one of his specials, just figured that the people who liked him sucked so he would as well.

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Emily Heller – Pasta and Comedy Central Special Ice Thickeners

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Emily Heller is making waves. She is a New York City comic who is currently writing for the TV show Barry. Her previous album, “Good for Her,” was a remarkable achievement. She does a podcast with Lisa Hanawalt called Baby Geniuses. I did not know about this podcast until I was showing a friend the joke “Express Train” on this album, and they told me they knew and loved Emily Heller because of this podcast, specifically because of the segment called “Chunch Chat” where they discuss Martha Stewart’s horse, Baen Chunch.

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