In The Depression Auction, Joe DeRosa mixes outrage – a solid stand-up staple – with something much less common but more interesting, an attempt at maturity. He doesn’t let anyone off the hook, including himself. Rare is the comic who makes himself relate to George W. Bush in those seven infamous minutes that he sat there, reading to children, after being informed of the 9/11 attacks. DeRosa does it by imagining the complete, hysterical meltdown he would have had were he president at the time.
Throughout the album, DeRosa qualifies his indignant criticisms of reality television or human behavior with equally unsparing looks at his own problems, from drinking too much to being a little too quick to dispense with hecklers. In a seemingly tossed-off but very revealing moment, the crowd and DeRosa almost mistake a woman’s quick cheer of support for an insult, and DeRosa narrates his decision-making process as he stops himself from instinctively calling her a cunt.
The same is true of the bonus track, which includes material edited out of the album of DeRosa’s repeated, frustrated attempts to deal with a real and persistent heckler: DeRosa is never not funny as he channels angst, rage, and earnestness all at once to plead with the woman to quiet down.
It’s a sign that while The Depression Auction might be DeRosa’s debut album, it’s a solidly written and well thought-out set, the clear product of years of horribly embarrassing events, as well as even more years of refining the stories of those events to fit into DeRosa’s sarcastic, everyman worldview. The album is a mix of some fan favorites (an unfortunate run-in with the fans of the Insane Clown Posse, more on that later) as well as new material.
He tells a bride-to-be in the audience to “remember that your wedding is a goddamn burden to your friends and family,” talks about his 63-year-old father, who refuses to wear anything but bikini underwear in the heat, and in one terrific bit, describes the exact moment in an argument when he realizes that he’s wrong but has to stand his ground anyway (in this case, during a shouting match with a subway operator about whether 14th Street is indeed between 23rd and 3rd).
DeRosa is a relatable, conversational comic in the Bill Burr mode (they co-hosted a satellite radio show “Uninformed,” now available as a podcast through iTunes), though he’s not yet at Burr’s level of crushing, brutal social criticism (but then again, who is?). My only criticism of an otherwise very strong album is when his political average Joe material seems to flirt with a surprising hesitation to take a stand. DeRosa opens the bit by saying, “I’m politically stupid and easily led” and then describes ping-ponging from one opinion to its polar opposite on the issue of whether torture should be legal as he listens to differing arguments from Barack Obama and Dick Cheney.
It stretches the bounds of believability (or maybe it’s just me) that DeRosa would have no real feelings about torture. Here, I would have liked to see him venture further in the direction Burr has gone in recent years: state upfront he has no idea what he’s talking about (which DeRosa already does and gets well-deserved big laughs doing so) but then propose a bold and radical solution anyway.
Of course, if you have any idea of who Joe DeRosa is, it’s probably because of his near-legendary story of performing at the Gathering of the Juggalos, a kind of Woodstock (or, in DeRosa’s case, Altamont) for fans of the Insane Clown Posse (who he calls “the worst band ever in the history of man”), held in the woods of Ohio.
On a track appropriately titled “The Worst Gig Ever,” the story is told here with detail so hilarious you can feel the surreal panic of the moment in which he insults someone in the crowd and thousands of ICP fanatics in clown make-up start angrily chanting “Family” at him, over and over again. Anyone could wallow in the shame of that moment, and DeRosa deservedly does, as he confesses, “It was the lowest point of my goddamn life.” “But, here’s the funny part,” he adds, in a wonderful, self-deprecating turn that proves both his talent and his potential, “A year later, they offered me double the money, and I took the gig.”
Download the entire album by clicking the image below.