Funny, funny, funny. That's how I choose to remember the 90's. A decade often remembered for bringing us the angst-ridden crunch of Grunge music and the commercialization of the Goth image, was also the source of some of great and numerous yuks! Although I enjoyed finding "the funny" through the mediums of television and film, there was another form that made its mark on me and my friends during this most "Whatever" of decades: The Comedy Album.
Whether on audio cassette or compact disc I could always turn to this age-old form of comedy for guaranteed laughs. A time-tested method of giving folks the giggles, comedy albums helped launch the careers of famous comedians like Steve Martin, Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby who eventually moved their way into television and film stardom. Continuing in their tradition, comedians of the 90's proved that you didn't need to see their faces to recognize real humor. What follows is a list of MY top 5 comedy albums of the 90's, enjoy.
Disclaimer: Although they are all "Bleeped" out, this article does contain some profanities in the quotes from the albums.
5. Weird Al Yankovic-"Off The Deep End"(1992)
This 1992 release by the master of comical pop music parodies was one of his most successful, reaching #17 on the Billboard Music charts. Part of that success may have to do with the cover of the album which was a take off on Nirvana's "Nevermind" with a naked Al replacing the baby in the pool and the dollar with a doughnut.
I say this contributed to the success of the album because it's very likely that less attentive folks grabbed Al's album thinking it was Nirvana's, but once they heard the hilarity of songs like "I Can't Watch This" that manages to skewer both MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" and all cable TV programming of the era, they didn't care.
Everyone I knew had this album and it surprised me. For the longest time if I didn't listen to Guns N' Roses I was considered an outcast, but suddenly it was cool to listen to Weird Al. I can't say I blame the new "Friends of Al" for jumping on the bandwagon.
The Oreo-centric "The White Stuff" was a direct parody of "The Right Stuff" by NKOTB that left the listener in stitches and little hungry. The infamous lip-synching duo of Milli Vanilli are made an even bigger laughing stock with "The Plumbing Song" which flushes their two biggest hits "Blame It On The Rain" and "Baby Don't Forget My Number" down the toilet.
While my favorite songs are not parodies (I prefer "Airline Amy" and "When I Was Your Age") the cultural significance of the album is what makes it so great. These songs are a fun snapshot of the celebrities and trends of the era, that still make me laugh (maybe even harder now) every time I listen to them.
4. Brian Regan-"Live"(1997)
A straight stand-up comedy album, 1997's "Brian Regan: Live" is a relatable collection of crazy childhood stories and everyday observations as told by a man who sounds like a sarcastic 35-year-old 6th grader with ADD. His anecdotes often start out with a fairly reasonable embarrassing moment, which then degenerates into nervous, insane rambling trying to cover up for his idiocy.
For example, "I was saying good bye to some friends the other day and I was saying take care, but decided to say good luck in the middle of it. So it came out, take...luck. Take luck and care. Take care of the luck you might have. If you have luck, take it, care for it. That's all I'm trying to say, that's all I'm getting at...if you think about it."
Another hilarious story involves frantic last minute science fair project preparation that ends up with the creation of the amazing Cup of Dirt, which is as Brian explains, "A cup, with dirt IN it, I call it cup of dirt". Mr. Regan also recounts his complete ineptness at little league baseball, being relegated to right field and only hanging out until his obsession with the promise of snow cones is satisfied. "Hey, Brian what's the score?" "GRAPE! I want a grape snow cone...Even if you only play a half game, you still get a whole snow cone, so I'd rather play a half game, I'd rather play a half game."
The humor of these stories never gets old and the CD can be listened to over and over again. Until of course, you begin trying to perform it for all your family and friends who eventually get so fed up they fling the CD off into the ocean, never to be seen again. But you've got an ace up your sleeve, having listened to the album 100+ times you have it memorized and short of a lobotomy they 'aint gonna have a lot of luck getting it out of your brain. Suckers!
3. John Pinette-"Show Me The Buffett"(1998)
The star of our next comedy album is probably best remembered by Retro-Junkers as the chubby, Miss Musso-obsessed Coach Hank Kohler on the classic early 90's TV series "Parker Lewis Can't Lose". John presents himself as a "Large Mammal" who likes to eat and lives with the consequences of his actions.
Sticking with the buffet theme, John tells us what the monkey wrench in the buffet system really is, "Skinny people! You don't stand there browsing, you GRAB and MOVE, GRAB and MOVE! I'm like a ninja up there. I don't even know what I've got until I get back to the table."
Other topics include Japanese tourists mistaking him for "Free Willy", sending wheat to starving nations as a solution to world hunger ("I have no recipes for wheat") and the dangers of saying "Feed me I'm starving" at an Italian restaurant. What sells the stories is the screaming, ranting and raving that sounds like a Sam Kinison on helium or a really angry cartoon character.
The centerpiece of Mr. Pinette's act is the harrowing tale of his trip to the grand opening of a Chinese buffet. After John and his "Large Mammal" friends arrive to take advantage of the All-You-Can-Eat offer, the owner stops them at the door stating, "We closed" To which John replies, "It says Grand Opening, pal."
After a few hours of surviving the poison buffet food ("I give them enough MSG to kill an elephant!") the very concerned restaurant owner comes out and says, "You here 4 hour, why you here 4 hour? You scare my wife! You go now!"
When John and his friends come back another day the owner attempts to deter them by saying, "No buffet here, we dry clean now. Leave your jacket, be ready Friday!" All in all, this is the most memorable moment of the CD.
2. Adam Sandler-"What The Hell Happened To Me?"(1996)
Back before Adam Sandler became tragically immature and unfunny, this CD provided a million and one laughs that made us look forward to the Opera Man's future. Hot on the heels of the yuck-fests known as "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore", this album had everything Adam Sandler had been known for outrageous skits and silly songs performed to perfection.
The birth place of "The Chanukah Song" (although it had been performed on SNL), this album also spawned other songs that found their way on the radio and MTV. The Reggae-tinged "Ode To My Car" which contains the unforgettable repeating chorus, "Piece of sh** car, I got a piece of sh** car" actually played on the radio for several weeks with car horn sound effect covering up the every-other-word swearing. The forgettable "Steve Polychronopolous" even had a music video that was in regular airplay on MTV for some reason. Eventually the album spawned an HBO special that brought some of the album's characters to life. The real gems on the album are the skits, however.
"Joining the Cult" is the hilarious story of Sandler trying to convince his friend to join a cult with him over a game of hoops because as he eventually reveals, "There's a girl I wanna meet there, what the f***'s your problem?" When Sandler tries to tell his friend it's a good deal because he gets a free haircut, the friend asks, "Is it a nice haircut?" To which Sandler responds angrily, "It's gonna be a HAIRCUT, alright? You go in there, say you want a haircut, they're gonna f***in' cut your hair. You're going in and saving $5.00, does f***in' do it!" Does the friend join the cult? You'll have to listen and find out.
"The Farting Hypnotist" is a classic that reunites Sandler with SNL cast member Kevin Nealon who plays the lying Hypnotherapist. Sandler claims he is going in to be cured of his smoking and every time Nealon attempts to put him under he breaks wind. When Sandler questions the familiar sound, the Hypnotist first calmly blames the new leather on the couch, then his secretary, then the patient himself saying, "That time that was you."
Sandler, laughing in disbelief says, "It wasn't me" Nealon continues, "That was you and maybe we can deal with it in another session, but right now it's the smoking." The best part of the skit is the fact that Sandler can't keep it straight and is constantly laughing throughout as Nealon very serenely tries to convince him that he is not the one farting.
"The Goat" was the most quoted of the skits between my friends and I in Junior High. Basically a bunch of Stoners sneak onto "The Old Man's" property to introduce their friend Robert to the talking goat who lives in the back of a pick-up truck. The goat sounds like an old man from Mexico by way of Eastern Europe, with a surplus of attitude and an extreme desire to get away from the Old Man's pick up truck for some partying.
The Stoners tell the Goat that they are on their way to Reggae festival, which excites the Goat, "Oh, the Ragu festival, I heard about that on the AM radio....It's not the MTZ, like you kids listen to, but...you know, take me into the mosh pit, pass me around, Crank it up, F*****s!".
The Goat also laments the treatment by the neighborhood kids and plots his revenge, "They are always calling me stinky nuts and throwing things. You know Garaputo? That fat sh**? He threw a cinder block at my head, chipped one of my horns. One day he's going to get too close to the pick-up truck and I'll bite his f***in' ear off, man! You f*** with me, you get F****d with!"
Sandler's subsequent albums and films were terrible (with the exception of "The Wedding Singer" and the skit "Whitey" from his comedy album "Stan and Judy's Kid"). This album marks a moment of brilliance that was never recaptured.
1. The Jerky Boys (1993)
One of the oldest gags in the book is the crank call. Everyone has tried it at least once and by age 11 some people have actually become pretty good at it. But there are only two people who can claim to be masters of the art form, they are the New York "Tough Guys" known as The Jerky Boys. Johnny B. and Kamal move beyond the simple one-liners and into the realm of surreal, reality bending mischief as they take on the persona of various characters and engage in phony conversations with real people.
A great example comes in the form of the "Super Across the Way" call, in which Johnny B. calls up an apartment building and asks for the resident handyman, Bret Weir. The man on the line starts asking too many questions to clarify the intent of the call causing "The Super" to respond angrily with, "Look, Jerky, I don't need to talk to you." Caught off guard by the rudeness of The Super, the man on the line responds inquisitively, "You don't need to talk to me?" The wasted time sets off The Super who yells in a rage, "Get Bret Weir, I said!"
Eventually the man comes back and says Bret is not available to which the super responds, "This is the Super across the way. Now he's was supposed to take care of some business for me and I'm very angry with that little jerk. Now I'm gonna break his F****n' head. And don't make me come down there for you either TOUGH GUY. You tell him to call ME!" Bewildered the man confirms, "The Super across the way?" which is answered by The Super with the definitive, "You got it , Punk!"
The hilarity comes from a mix of the imagined situation the callers are faced with and their ultimate response to the sincerity and vulgarity of whichever character the Jerky Boys are channeling at that moment. Usually the calls are answering a want ad from the newspaper, with the completely unqualified character looking for employment.
Frank/Paul Rizzo is the foul-mouthed character most often looking for a job. Whether as an auto mechanic, asbestos removal technician or moving van driver, Frank calls everybody "Fruitcake" or "Sizzle Chest" as a term of endearment.
Another character included on the album is the senile, old Jewish man, Sol Rosenberg. Sal is found suffering from hemorrhoids, a bad glasses prescription, an M-80 exploding in his hand or seeking legal advice and eventually claiming he will sue the lawyer, too!
The funniest call (IMO) is a plea for help to a plumber entitled "Uncle Freddie". The call starts with an old man named Kissel calling a plumber and claiming that they were supposed to be at his home, "4 hours ago to fix my sink, water, there's water all over the place". The Plumber denies any knowledge of the call, but given more false info by Kissel he begins to pretend he does remember, but was unclear of the details. Kissel puts his obviously disturbed son Anthony on the line, claiming he was the one who made the appointment.
Out of nowhere Anthony asks the plumber, "Are you Uncle Freddy?" In shock the Plumber answers, "No. There's no Uncle Fred here." Distraught, Anthony begins to ramble on nonsensically, "Then Uncle Freddy's not there. Oh, nooooooo. I can't talk to my Father." Anthony can then be heard putting the phone down and telling the other people in the room, "He said Uncle Freddy Died".
Kissel jumps back on the line screaming, "Uncle Freddy died? Martha, Uncle Freddy Died (A woman screams in the background) They killed him! Oh, geez...I'm gonna come down there and I'm gonna break your F****n' legs, you killed Uncle Freddy...you killed him and now you wanna kill me, right?" Eventually the Plumber snaps out of his shock and asks the perfect question, "What is wrong with you?"
To answer his question, nothing is wrong with The Jerky Boys, they are hilarity at its finest. Their wacky adventures will instill laughter forever, because nothing dates the material, it is universal and out of time in its simplicity. My friends and I listened to The Jerky Boys every day after school for about 3 months straight and it never got old. Classic.
So tell me what you think? Which albums did I miss? Do you agree with me? Let's here it.