Ike Oden's stand-up act can only be described as observational puppet humor.
"I had a dingo and the most ironic thing happened…my baby ate it."
Doug Benson is no amateur. At the prime age of 46, Benson's been performing stand-up for well over a decade, coming up alongside such counter-culture colleagues as David Cross, Sarah Silverman, Brian Poeshen, and Adam Carolla—all unique performers with acts I've long-admired. With two previous albums underneath his belt (Professional Humoridian and Unbalanced Load), a starring role in a widely-distributed documentary (Super High Me), and a wildly popular podcast (Doug Loves Movies) to his credit, we can regard Benson as a seasoned, successful comedian worthy of fair criticism.
With this in mind, you're probably wondering if the latest stand-up comedy album from Doug Benson—Hypocritical Oaf—is funny, right?
My answer: No.
Not at all. Not ever. Never ever funny, amusing, or otherwise comedic in over an hour and a half of stand-up. While displaying an undeniably likeable comic persona, Doug Benson's stand-up is inconsistent in content, style, tone, and timing.
Let's start with the material. In terms of topics, Doug is all over the map. He openly admits lacking an angle, which is fine, and makes light of his ability to polish transitions rather than tell actual jokes. Moving past these set-ups, however, one realizes that Benson isn't joking, but responding to his own weaknesses as a comedian. Benson's act unevenly relies on contrived, non-sequitor stoner humor while bouncing back and forth between topical jaunts (ranging from legalizing weed to Octomom), anti-comedy impressions, awkward audience interactions, and cliché movie references (Silence of the Lambs jokes haven't been funny since 1991). It's a lame cocktail of disparate styles and content that tries desperately to be sophisticated and middle ground all at once.
This kitchen sink approach kills any laughs to be had, undermined by a lack of even the most rudimentary comedic timing. Benson presents himself as a low-key stoner for the bulk of his material, which would work if he had any sort of consistent material. In terms of the "zany modern comedian" barometer, he goes from Mitch Hedberg to Dane Cook in a few beats, and it all comes off as hackneyed imitations of guys whose material wasn't unique to begin with. Even suggesting that Dane Cook is superior to any professional comic pains me (he's all wacky delivery and wore out his welcome years ago), but the guy comes off like Steve Martin in comparison to Doug Benson.
I listened to the album, watched both Comedy Central Presents: Doug Benson specials contained on the DVD, and didn't laugh once in over 90 minutes. Smirks don't count, neither do near-laughs. If I'm watching stand-up, I want some gut-busting belly laughs, if not a chuckle here and there, but Benson could produce nothing, absolutely nothing. I wasn't in a bad mood, my attention rarely languished, and I've always been a big stand-up fan—a chortle should've occurred at least once. Hell, Bill Bellamy makes me chortle. Pauly Shore makes me chuckle. Even Carrot Top made me smile once (I was ten and recovering from a major surgery, so it may have been the morphine). That means Doug Benson is less funny to me than Carrot Top.
From a technical stand-point, everything is in order. The CD, containing most of Benson's new and uncensored material, sounded great on my stereo. It didn't put me in the middle of the Minnesota nightclub it was recorded in or anything, but good production values make the schtick go down easier. Both specials run around half an hour a piece and contain material very different from that on the album—material arguably worse than the CD. The video quality is a notch above standard television broadcast, with no noticeable flaws beyond the limitation of the format and a clear stereo track.
There's nothing worse than a comedian who doesn't make you laugh, especially when the mood and setting of one's home—the ultimate controlled environment—are pitch perfect. Benson is an appealing personality, seems like a really nice guy, but needs to stop trying to be a comedy renaissance man (or anti-renaissance man, whatever the hell he's going for) and start finessing his material. Outside help couldn't hurt, either.
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