Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two Comedy CDs: Jonathan Winters and Sean Kent

Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet

Jonathan Winters
Final Approach

Uproar Entertainment, 2011

During the 1960s and into the ‘70s, Jonathan Winters was not just a comedian / actor, he was a force of nature. His improvisational skill is legendary, and has a legion of fans that include his acolyte, Robin Williams (who helped re-kickboost Winters’ career with a role in Mork & Mindy). I remember watching him on music and comedy shows as a kid, and just howling. Now at 85, his newest collection (perhaps last by it’s name) is “totally improvised.” In 2000 Year Old Man fashion, Bob Shaw takes on the interviewer role, though he is certainly no Carl Reiner; however, this was recorded in a studio, rather than taped at a party, so there is no audience.

When I saw the package, I said to myself, “Wow!” and immediately put it on, something I rarely do. But hell, this is Jonathan Winters, after all. There are a dozen cuts here, and in each Winters gets to do a different accent and personality, including a “100 Year Old Man,” an “English Poet,” the “Pope’s Haberdasher,” and a “Leading Terrorist” (yes, each track is named after the character). Thing is, I don’t know if I cracked a smile more than a couple of times, never actually laughing. In fact, this made me a bit depressed, honestly.

On the CD case is a quote from Winters: “I would like to dedicate this CD to people that have an unusual sense of humor.” I’d like to include myself in that category, but it’s kind of an abstract notion. I mean, would one call Russell Brand and Dane Cook “unusual”? I find them nearly entirely mundane. Winters, on the other hand, normally has a brilliant mind, but he doesn’t seem to be reaching it here. Perhaps what they should have done is have him do the routines four or five times, then pick and choose and edit together. The way it comes across now, Jonathan and Shaw sometimes trip over each other, and Winters fumbles a few times because of it.

Saddest of all, though, is his reprisal of Maude Frickett, his classic old lady with a lusty demeanor (her catch phrase was about feeling things – i.e., horny – “Aaaaaall over mah body”). Here, Winters bring her into Tex Antoine (yes, the weatherman…look it up) territory, which is inexcusable, even at his age. Y’know what I want? I want a redo; I want Winters to make another CD, with a better questioner on the level of a Johnny Carson or, dare I say it again, Carl Reiner, who can coax some of the brilliance that I bet still lay in the mind of Jonathan Winters. Your fans, me included, deserve and are wanting for that.

Sean Kent
Waiting for the Rapture

Uproar Entertainment, 2010

For a while there, comedians like Dane Cook nearly ruined stand-up, using anger, yelling, and sarcasm, and just not being funny. Fortunately, comedians like Sean Kent have adapted it, and are employing it with much more success.

Using profanity, yelling, and often explicit depictions, Kent looks at the negative sides of our culture, thereby making the point of how ridiculous much of it is. For example, he talks about how much people who jumped on the rescue Haiti bandwagon are hypocrites, because Haiti has actually been suffering for 400 years, with the earthquake just making it thismuch worse. This leads into a humorously sharp rant about Anderson Cooper being a ratings-seeking “pain whore.”

While much (but not all) of his talk about sex (e.g., kwefs, BJs and shaved bits) is a bit of his own pandering for shock value, most of the rest of his material is pointed when discussing technology, the Right’s reaction to the Left’s politics, and the Walmart mentality.

When Kent nails it, as he often does, his material has a sting, such as pointing out the ignorance of “teabaggers” (i.e., the Tea Party) that don’t want the government to touch Medicare when Medicare is a governmental agency.

The fact that he’s playing to a Seattle audience, in a city that’s a haven for liberalism, does not make the pro-left material seem forced, but rather that he’s in his element. He drolly comments that Seattle is an anomaly, referring to the rest of the state as not eastern Washington but rather western Arkansas. He does, however, chastise an audience member for answering a rhetorical question with an answer that was as funny as his own. Perhaps Kent could take a lesson from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious where an audience member shouts out a funny line, and he drops the microphone, laughs hard, and then applauds the commenter.

I especially enjoyed Kent’s talking about the difference between Google and the library, and his details about the Dewey Decimal Sys(sssshhhhh). Another line that had me laughing is when he discusses the only way people hear about libraries now is when they “ironically” read about it. Actually, often when he mentions things that are more than 10 years old (the Walkman, the Final Solution), he suggests the audience “Google it.”

Speaking of modern technology, he does a rant about texting that alone is worth to journey to this CD. Though the sex-related material seems kind of meh, not really having any point other than titillation, the rest is good (not) clean fun.

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