There’s no doubting John Pinette’s ability to hook an audience. He always packs the house at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal, and he’s as popular on the club circuit as any working comic. He’s gotten more out of making fun of his girth than just about any comic — from Louie Anderson to Ralphie May. With Pinette, you know you’re going to get the most solid set of jokes about weight in the business, and that’s what his latest album, Making Lite of Myself, has to offer.
And therein lies the quandary. Pinette has an audience with expectations, and once you’ve found something that works, it’s dangerous to veer away from that. Would the crowds still be packed if Pinette suddenly dropped his “I say nay nay” callback and started doing political or absurdist comedy?
And if comedy is, at some point, about finding humor in who you are, would it be an honest change? Would any change be honest?
There are real honest issues on Making Lite. Pinette is struggling with his weight loss; he’s noticeably thinner than he was even a few years ago. He even addresses how he lost 100 pounds in the first few tracks. He talks about going to the gym, chanting “raviolis and a nap” as incentive to finish his reps on a weight machine and trying the “Subway Diet.”
But some of the bits are overwritten, as when his trainer tries to get him to do sit-ups. “I don’t do ‘ups,’ he says. “I do ‘downs.’ Sit down, lay down, blackjack I’ll double down. Give me a cheeseburger I’ll wolf it down. Put on a little music I’ll boogie down.”
There are some laughs in the first, more weight-oriented part of the album, but it really starts to pick up when Pinette stretches a bit more into less obvious material.
He ruminates about his friends convincing him to go on a ski trip and quitting tequila because, “It makes me ski.” He talks about growing up in a poor household, “And not the kind of poor where you’d go, ‘We were poor, but we never knew it.’ I was certain of it. And I was not happy about it. Periodically I would say, ‘Hey, just want you to know that I know we’re poor.’”
Pinette has a great delivery and an affably sarcastic personality that can prop up some of his weaker premises, and he knows how to turn a phrase. He’s funny, and this latest album is often funny. But in the end, you wonder how much more mileage he can get out of the buffet.