Since Adam Sandler put his goofy songs on tape for his 1993 debut album, it seemed the doors would open wide for singing comedians. And perhaps they did — though not wide enough for most people to actually notice. But hardcore standup fans started to pay attention seven
years later when Stephen Lynch’s Comedy Central Presents debuted and his first album, A Little Bit Special, dropped. While others thought they could get by with only an acoustic guitar and a shabby set of jokes, Lynch knew better and executed his own special formula for success.
On his third disc, The Craig Machine , Lynch continues his reign as one of the nation’s most skilled singing comedians. Armed with a voice sweeter than most all-too-earnest contemporary singer/songwriters — we’re looking at you, John Mayer — a keen sense of pop song structure and a wickedly vile sense of humor, the Michigan native keeps us guessing and, more importantly, laughing throughout the new 14-song collection.
For Lynch, the guitar clearly isn’t a novelty. It’s the vehicle for every punchline. As a result, he’s careful to construct real songs — as in the type you’d hear on traditional pop albums, the kind that people will listen to repeatedly. Of course, there are a few quick throwaways — see “Love Song” and “Not Home” — peppered throughout for cheap, hard, laughs. But largely, there are plenty of hooks on which to grab hold.
In the galloping “Vanilla Ice Cream,” a sort of love song to African-American women Lynch sings , “If you’re a honky, you’re singing the wrong key. ” He gives Jesus a hard drinking, cooler brother, Craig Christ, in the swaggering, first-person track “Craig.” Over a raucous full strum, Lynch sasses , “Because while Jesus is prayin’/ Fuckin’ Craig is layin’ every lady in the Testament / You know what I’m sayin.’ ” He satirizes the generic rock template in “Classic Rock Song,” where he goes from singing lines like, “Baby, let’s make love / Your body fits me like a glove” to, “I swear that wasn’t my goal / To put it in your butt hole.”
Part of Lynch’s draw is that he commits equally to both music and joke on each track. The most offensive song, “Baby” — wherein the song’s subject hopes his ugly newborn gets SIDS — is also the catchiest. We dare you not to sing the chorus. One of the more absurdly themed songs, “Little Tiny Moustache,” about dating a Nazi woman who “quoted Mein Kampf in our fifth anniversary card” is also the most musically delicate, beautiful song on Machine . It further proves that if Lynch ever went legit, he’d probably succeed. But that would be bad… and not really that funny.