Last year saw the release of several brilliant comedy albums, one of which was undoubtedly Joe DeRosa’s dark gem The Depression Auction. The album is filled with DeRosa’s characteristic angst and frustration. More important, though, The Depression Auction is, in a word, real.
On stage, DeRosa doesn’t hold back. You can hear it in his voice; you can even read it in his album track titles: “I’ve Never Been in Shape,” “I Eat Like Shit,” “I Guess I Didn’t Quit Drinking,” “A Pussy, That’s Me.” He makes himself unusually vulnerable. And by extension, he allows us nearly unfettered access to his mind. And DeRosa’s second album Return of the Son of Depression Auction is as emotional and real as his first effort. As DeRosa says in the audio liner notes, Son is meant to be a “part two”: it contains material that DeRosa was working through around the time of the recording for his first album. Son, however, is by no means, a collection of b-sides. While it may own a slightly lower laughs-per-minute level, it’s nonetheless a marvelous piece of art.
It’s one thing to look outside the self and milk comedy from external events and one’s perceptions of them; it’s quite another to turn inward and analyze one’s own thoughts and actions. It can be a daunting and painful process. But DeRosa is able to make this turn better than almost any other stand-up comedian today. And although his name doesn’t (yet) carry the weight of the likes of Louis C.K., Marc Maron, or Christopher Titus, the vulnerability he carries in his comedy are near equal to the aforementioned big guns of comedy.
DeRosa’s comedy inspires the question: why are we laughing? Ostensibly, we’re listening to a man who is a combative, angst-ridden depressive with atypically low self-esteem. Moreover, we’re listening to a man describe how and why his life sucks; why our lives are better; why he can’t seem to help himself. This has all the makings of a dark, melodramatic independent film. But DeRosa is somehow able to make the telling of any story funny. He’s able to make us laugh at his expense.
A typical DeRosa premise comes near the start of the album: “I’m afraid of physical confrontation because I can’t fight and I can’t run. So I’m really fucked if some shit goes down. I just have to kinda lay there on the ground: ‘I’m sorry, sir. You can finger me if you want.’” DeRosa does not simply poke fun at himself; he destroys himself. And we eat it up. DeRosa’s not laughing with us, though. He’s busy preparing to get pissed off about something else.
DeRosa doesn’t give us a plethora of punch lines for us to latch onto. In this way, his act should be taken in its entirety. One needs to get a full sense of the man before one can faithfully laugh at him. Lucky for us, DeRosa is able to impart that full sense unto us with shocking ease. Return of the Son of Depression Auction is best listened to multiple times. After each play, a little more of DeRosa’s personality is revealed, leaving his listeners exponentially fulfilled– emotionally and analytically.
You can pre-order Return of the Son of Depression Auction at iTunes.