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Spit Take Saturday: 2012 Comedy Gift Guide


Welcome to Spit Take Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No a**-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!


Each sense of humor is a little different, but who doesn’t love to laugh? With that in mind, we’ve got comedy both naughty and nice, memoirs and one-person shows, the classics, British comedy, alternative and musical. That should cover just about everyone, and some people two or three times.

Some of the newer releases reviewed on The Spit Take are here, and we tried to keep it fairly current while still choosing the best stuff in each category. Some choices would fit multiple categories, but we didn’t repeat artists or selections. Everything here is also fairly easy to find, at least online (that kept Belle Barth and Pearl Williams, whose work is mainly available on vinyl, out of the “Blue Christmas” section). Lists are in no particular order; feel free to leave your own suggestions for releases we neglected to cover below.”


Blue Christmas (Adult Material)

Lenny Bruce – “To Is a Preposition; Come Is a Verb”  There are better Bruce albums, but this collection ought to please fans of his more scatological side.

Robert Schimmel – “Unprotected”  Schimmel spoke frankly and explicitly about sex and his health, and could make you laugh describing a sigmoidoscopy.

Andrew Dice Clay – “The Day the Laughter Died”  Clay can be hard to take, but several contemporaries who work blue still cite him as an influence, and this is his best work.

Patrice O’Neal – “Mr. P”  Released after his untimely demise, this is just a sample of O’Neal’s brutal brilliance.

Redd Foxx – “Very Best of Redd Foxx: Fugg It!”  Foxx was a pioneer of the party album, “adult” comedy records that shops kept under the counter.


Santa’s Good List (Clean Comedy)

Jim Gaffigan – “Beyond the Pale”  Sing it with me, Pale Force Nation: “Hooot pockets!” Gaffigan has fun with a very accessible, food-obsessed “dumb guy” philosophy, but he’s a smart writer.

Mike Birbiglia – “Sleepwalk With Me Live”  Birbiglia is very easy to root for, and though he is not always the good guy in this story (which eventually became a book and a movie), he sees that. Remember, he’s in the future also.

Jerry Seinfeld – “I’m Telling You For the Last Time”  The premise of this album was that Seinfeld was retiring his best bits. No politics, no profanity stronger than “hell” or “damn,” just Seinfeld’s reliable observational humor.

Ray Romano – “Live at Carnegie Hall”  Romano drops the f-bomb early on, but it’s bleeped, and it’s clean—and funny—from then on.

Brian Regan – “The Epitome of Hyperbole”  It’s hard to resist Regan’s affable Everyman. He has a very specific cadence, one that can easily get stuck in your head, and a wonderful physicality. This special can be played for just about anyone.

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Spit Take Saturday: Jimmy Dunn

Boat Hack Cover! To anything but the most persistent comedy geek, the term “boat hack” will mean nothing. Boston comic Jimmy Dunn defines it as a terrible slur, aimed at comedians who work cruise ships for a living. “It implies not only are you a shi**y, unoriginal entertainer,” he writes, “you are also so desperate for work and approval that you’ve sold out your soul and have gone to work for the nit-wits and moronic masses that vacation on the ‘Whatever of the Seas.’” Which is why the book opens with Dunn sabotaging his cruise ship career by telling “The Aristocrats” joke, the vulgar, improvisational routine that inspired the movie of the same name, to a cruise audience.

“Boat Hack: A Stand-Up Comic’s Farewell to The Cruise Industry” is Dunn’s gruff exposé of cruise-ship comedy, his farewell letter, and a bit of a travelogue. He offers a sarcastic disclaimer to start, claiming that, despite his 12 or so years telling jokes on boats, none of the stories are true. “So don’t bother calling your lawyers,” he writes, addressing some anonymous cruise-line employee. “Or mine. I made it all up.” The book doesn’t read as false, so take the disclaimer with a gain of salt the size of Lot’s wife.

“Boat Hack” isn’t an in-depth, journalistic look at the industry. The chapters are short, usually only a couple of pages, some no longer than a couple of paragraphs. Dunn is no Bill Bryson, and offers no analysis of his observations, no Sociology 101. He treats almost everything as if he were writing it for the stage: focus on the laughs and the sarcasm, hit the punchline and get out. As a result, some of the stories seem a little incomplete.

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