“Always get the name of the dog.” That’s a common refrain among journalists, a reminder that the beauty of any story is in the details.
On Half Breed, Al Madrigal’s latest comedy album, the master storyteller gives you the dog’s name, address, favorite color and Social Security number. The veteran comic’s jokes unfold less like set-up-beat-punch line and more like exquisitely conjured scenes from a novel.
Consider the real-life pictures the Californian paints: Standing at an inner-city Burger King filled with assorted miscreants, including an unintentionally bearded lady working the counter and a Filipino man behind him in line who starts complaining loudly without ever speaking in plurals.
Going to a nightclub in Mexico and finding a floor covered in sawdust, tourists dutifully avoiding the water but throwing up from Jell-O shots – they’re not making them with Evian, Madrigal says – and a geographically ambiguous DJ who botches song lyrics and gives shout-outs only to people from Canada. Or riding to school as a kid in San Francisco and wondering how peculiar he must have looked wearing a sailor suit on a trolley and singing “Freres Jacques.” With a writer’s eye for detail and a musician’s ear for pacing, Madrigal weaves these tales so seamlessly that by the time the laughter dies down, it’s hard to imagine he’s just filled three solid minutes without ever slowing down the narrative.
He also deals skillfully with his peculiar nationality, calling himself a “modern-day Paul Reverez” with the warning of “the Mexicans are coming!” And he devotes plenty of material to his two kids, whom he describes with the adjectives guinea-pig and let’s-not-make-the-same-mistakes-again. It’s the most authentic form of the art – comedy that’s not just written, but lived.
Click on the graphic below to purchase Al Madrigal’s Half Breed.