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Anthony Jeselnik, Caligula (Available now, Comedy Central Records)I�ve listened to Caligula so many times in my car that by now I can mouth each one-liner as Jeselnik, the dark prince of comedy, delivers them. For example: �My ex-girlfriend owned a parakeet,� Jeselnik says. �That fucking thing never shut up�but the bird was cool.� If you haven�t heard his 2010 debut, Shakespeare (also a Comedy Central Records release), download it from iTunes. Both discs showcase Jeselnik�s signature display of grossly offensive material served up with such cocksure delivery that you know he�s yanking your chain every misogynistic, anti-religious and racially insensitive step of the way. The biggest difference, however, is the comedian�s rising level of star power between the two releases. Instead of a hundred or so hands clapping at the UCB Theatre in New York when Jeselnik muses about the standards and practices people at Conan, we get a thunderous roar of applause from the hundreds packed in at the Vic Theatre in Chicago when Jeselik delivers lines like this on Caligula: �I�ve spent the last two years searching for my girlfriend�s killer�but no one will do it.� Priceless.
Kyle Kinane, Whiskey Icarus (Available now, Comedy Central Records)This one�s not technically new, having dropped at the end of last year, but Kinane has been killing hard these last few years and his talent shouldn�t fly under any comedy fan�s radar. Don�t be fooled when Kinane, a former Chicagoan, opens his show with the following line: �Thanks for coming to see Uncle Barbecue tell his dumb, dumb stories for a little while.� Kinane tells jokes at the absolute top of his intelligence, taking arrow after arrow out of his quiver and aiming them relentlessly at himself. With his left hand shaking ever so slightly and in a voice as low and growly as Nick Nolte post-mug shot, the self-described bag of garbage excoriates himself for late-night Wendy�s binges and secret single behavior like sticking Twizzlers up his rear end. It sounds like lowbrow stuff, but it�s not. A missive about tolerance is disguised as an eight-minute rant about a dude on a flight eating flapjacks that�s also full of Kinane�s effusive love of language and specificity. Kinane�s an essential comedian for those of us with disheveled lives. A raconteur who can look us all in the face and say, �Cheer up, dirtbag, we�ll find the human being in there yet.�
Eugene Mirman, An Evening of Comedy in a Fake Underground Laboratory (Available now, Comedy Central Records)About halfway through track eight, �Touring My Set, But First Two Other Jokes,� I ejected Mirman�s latest CD from my Mac. It�s not that it wasn�t amusing, but rather as Mirman began giving fans a tour of the makeshift apothecary lined with curiosities he�d constructed for his set, I realized the companion DVD would offer the visual experience this show requires. Mirman is a multi-talented humorist I don�t always connect with, but he�s nevertheless radar-worthy. He�s a terrific storyteller who revels in the arcane and finds comedy in the unfamiliar. In one bit, he recalls being asked to show up for an audition wearing something from the 1920s. He showed up wearing a sign that read, irish need not apply. In another, Mirman uses a theremin (an old electronic musical instrument from which the user extracts sounds by gesturing around it) to perform his impression of whales having sex. Merman is a scientist and his jokes are little comedy experiments (he even has an Igor of sorts in a brief cameo from the inimitable Kristen Schaal), like when he scribbles little notes on the bottom of cocktail napkins in bars in hopes that unsuspecting patrons will find them later. Not funny all the time, but always fun.
A trio of comics keeps us laughing through winter.
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