Judge Dan Mancini is worse than the friggin' Burmese.
"I always felt you were the most natural stand-up in the group of alternative comics."—Bob Odenkirk while interviewing Dana Gould
You may remember Dana Gould as a mainstay of stand-up comedy in the early and mid-'90s—a familiar face on everything from Comedy Central to Late Show with David Letterman. Or maybe you remember him as used luxury van salesman "Fragile" Frankie Merman in Seinfeld's "The Junk Mail" episode. You may even remember Gould's occasional contributions to Ben Stiller's short-lived but excellent sketch comedy show. If so, you may now be wondering whatever happened to Gould. The answer: He took on a six-year stint as a writer and then producer on The Simpsons. The gig—along with marriage and children—kept him mostly behind the camera, venturing out to small clubs only occasionally in order to maintain his stand-up chops and get a quick fix of audience interaction. After leaving The Simpsons in 2007, Gould wrote a heap of new material and hit the road. Let Me Put My Thoughts in You is the culmination of this latest phase of his stand-up career, a full-length performance shot in the cozy confines of Chicago's Second City Theater in June of 2008.
Looking decidedly middle-aged in a brown suit and tie, Gould starts slowly but quickly warms to the crowd and delivers a truly funny set. Once he builds a head of steam, Gould proves a consummate professional. Though clearly working from a set of carefully written and precisely performed jokes, he comes off so loose and conversational that it almost seems like he's making it up as he goes. Gould is entirely in control of his material and the crowd. His stuff is keenly observed, smart, and hilarious. He uses his voice, face (especially his eyebrows), and body to great effect without coming off as overly broad or clownish. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Let Me Put My Thoughts in You is the organic flow of its ideas. As an experienced writer and performer, Gould knits his material together so tightly that he never has to employ the jarring transitions that hold most stand-up sets together. Instead, one joke flows seamlessly into the next. The result is that Gould comes off as a sharp comic speaking almost off-the-cuff to an audience he assumes is also sharp. The bedrock of the set is a series of jokes about the challenges of family life, but he makes frequent excursions into riffs on awkward social interactions, politics, and even a little metaphysics. A segment about the hazards of trying to reason with a five year old made me laugh so hard I thought I might hurt myself. Another stand-out from the set is a hysterically profane extended rumination on father-son conflict that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Directed by Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show), Let Me Put My Thoughts in You opens with a black-and-white credits sequence with Gould in his dressing room, working on his set list. Faux knicks and scratches evoke the look of a '60s performance. The show proper transitions to smooth, pristine color, shot on high definition digital video. The show is presented with a minimum of fuss, but looks great. The presentation is 16:9, anamorphically enhanced. Detail is excellent and color accuracy is rock solid. Audio is presented in a Dolby 5.1 mix that captures Gould's voice as well as the ambience of the theater in fine detail. There is also a stereo option that's just as clean, though not as full-bodied.
In addition to the set, Let Me Put My Thoughts in You contains a low-fi eight-minute backstage interview of Gould by Odenkirk. Gould delves into his career as a writer and stand-up comedian. It's surprisingly candid and interesting. Soul Mates is a 14-minute short film written and directed by Gould in 2003. The bleak but funny tale of a husband and wife separated by death stars Paul Greenberg (The Vacant Lot), David Koechner (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), Arden Myrin (MADtv), and Michael Hitchcock (A Mighty Wind). There are also two deleted scenes that are funny enough to have made the final cut but don't fit into the set's thematic flow. "Indefensible Bonus Bit" is less than two minutes of discussion about abortion rights and the Special Olympics. "Woe Is Me" is around three minutes of complaints about Gould's dental coverage hassles during the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike.
Let Me Put My Thoughts in You is stand-up comedy for adults—and I mean that in the best possible sense. Not at all stuffy or staid, hilariously profane when necessary, and expressing some honest-to-goodness truths about life on Earth, the show is laugh-aloud funny. The disc isn't likely to win the hearts of Dane Cook fans, but grown-ups will dig it. I sure did.
And remember: chocolate cock, Sunday picnic.
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