More and more standup comics have been stretching the boundaries of humor, looking to topics and ideas that just a few years ago no one I knew would have thought of as something that could make an audience giggle, let alone roar with laughter. Listening to some of the material on the new CD from Kyle Cease, I Highly Recommend This, as well as the bonus DVD that comes with it, you have to think these comics have the right idea. Nothing, it seems, is off limits, but if you have the right guy talking, people will laugh.
Daniel Tosh can joke about rape. Louis C.K. can have fun with the topic of child molestation. And Kyle Cease can try to make you laugh thinking about your own death. Had anyone asked me, I would have advised all three of them to find something else to have their fun with; I would have been wrong. They have their live audiences, and me, laughing. Cease does his bit about problems voting on a proposal for eating babies and you think: No way. But then you remember Jonathan Swift, and perhaps everything old is new again.
Of the new material, the bits that had me laughing hardest were (and here I’m using the album’s track titles): “Old Women Who Say ‘Well I Never,” “Universal Studios,” “Let’s Pick Up The Phone,” and “Things You Need To Forget.” But Cease at his best is Cease working the crowd. His interaction with the audience, not only on the CD, but on the bonus DVD as well, is nothing short of masterful.
The DVD includes the comedian’s Comedy Central Presents half-hour special and a dozen of his video shorts produced with his brother. His running fist-pump gag with the guy in the first row on the TV special and the way he uses the audience’s reaction as transitions between unrelated weird jokes are often hilarious. Also, he has a very clever ending for the show. The shorts that I liked best were two titled Heckler Time #1 and Heckler Time #2. Both had him working less with nasty hecklers than simply with audience members. And, again, it was some of his most effective comedy.
Back to the question of offensive material: The Comedy Central special has a bit on God and the immaculate conception that more than likely would have been excised on network TV. Nonetheless, it is absurdist humor with a definite edge. Some of the short films as well are clearly in what used to be called bad taste but are sure funny as hell. Melagian is an excremental set of instructions for a magic trick. In Your Vagina is a surrealist romp on the theme of stalking. For a bit of inoffensive humor there are the culinary setups about the preparation of bananas and banana salad in the Snack and a Sketch videos.
Cease has a rapid fire delivery that is always energetic and even at times manic. You need to keep up with him, and if you do and you aren’t easily offended, you will find a lot of laughs on this two-disc set.