In her new CD, I Didn’t F*ck It Up (the asterisk is her spelling, by the way. I would’ve gone ahead and said “fuck.”), Katie Goodman proves that there is a vast difference between a “guitar act” and a musical comedian. Anybody’s who’s frequented comedy clubs over the years has seen plenty of performers take to the stage with song parodies that mix familiar tunes with sexual innuendo, singing impressionists with silly stylistic satire. This ain’t that.
Katie writes and performs original songs (her husband Soren Kiesiel co-writes) , funny songs, songs that break taboo and find laughs in subjects ranging from the human foibles of adulthood (These Are the Things I Can’t F*cking Remember) to political outrage (Glenn Beck is Batshit Crazy) to the title track’s exploration of a communal sense of generalized despair. In this, she is on par not just with any woman in modern comedy, not just with any music act in modern comedy but, categorically on par with anyone working the current comedy scene. I am less knowledgeable about music than comedy, so I hesitate to critique the musicianship on the CD, which offers tracks that are performed in front of a live audience as well as songs recorded in studio. I will say that several of the songs hang with me, choruses running through my head happily as I drive in silence, verses and turns of phrase hanging just out of reach of my memory, dragging me back to relisten.
This doesn’t happen so much to me with straight ahead comedy CDs, and only happens to me with music that eventually winds up having a place in my CD changer. Ms. Goodman’s casual vulgarity may not make this a good gift for young children, but it is fully in keeping with the post-Carlin world of censor-free live comedy. When R-rated language appears in song lyrics, it is the chosen vernacular, used consciously for effect. Thus it becomes more than an affable affectation of conversational comfort for a counterculture lefty or a politically incorrect libertarian. Working within the structured format of song-writing, Ms. Goodman returns the power of linguistic shock-value and somehow also manages to set the environment in which a joke that revolves around a tampon is able to get a laugh of joyous recognition rather than an uncomfortable groan. In the song “These Are the Things I Can’t F*cking Rermember,” she reveals things that might trouble us, might gross us out, but they do not. All they do is reveal her humanity and make us laugh with recognition of our own. More importantly, and far more subtly, the real shock of that song is her admission – as a woman in show business – that she is experiencing middle age.
It is a joyous thing for us all to be allowed to share. Shameless, she leads us to a place free of shame. What’s really impressive, what really makes it all so magnificent, is that she provides all of this vulgarity and outrage and human shamelessness with an extraordinary kind of class. More than I could ever hope to bring to a stage. How do I know that? I would’ve spelled out all the words on the jacket cover without using the asterisk.