Disorder begins by introducing Brody as a “purveyor of fine words and phrases,” a description that could not be more apt. The comedian has found success not only in the stand-up biz, but also as a playwright and published author. His other pastimes, of course, are made immediately clear: Brody’s vocal candor and pacing call to mind a wordsmith comfortable playing with language. He sounds like a version of humorist David Sedaris: tonally restrained, even-paced, and poetic, those qualities woven into the threads of stories– more so than jokes.
The two also share the model stand-up comedian trait, though: self-deprecation. Brody’s tales explore almost exclusively what happens when things go wrong in his life. He regales us with a story of trying to buy marijuana in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood, only to realize he is wearing the color of the wrong gang. He describes perhaps the worst locale for a stand-up gig I’ve ever heard about: a parking garage with folding tables and chairs. Woof.
A particularly noteworthy track finds Brody as an ambitious stage actor in London, where he studied the theater (and I mean the theater) and somehow found himself on a date with the daughter of Sir Laurence Olivier. You can probably guess how well it went. But what is striking about this story is not the outcome, but the deft verbal construction of the scene, as Brody describes in vivid detail her beauty and his hopes for their future (needless to say, Sir Laurence played a substantial role in this projection).
This is the source of my puzzlement. Brody’s material is real and entertaining and enjoyable — it truly was a pleasure to listen to — but it seems that it’d be more at home in The New Yorker than a comedy club– perhaps, a light-hearted column at the end of the magazine. Ten-dollar references to linguistic code-switching and photographer-of-the-freaks Diane Arbus further locate his sensibility between middle- and high-brow.
Chronological Disorder is nonetheless worth a listen not only for Brody’s remarkable control over his craft, but for the way it nudges the boundaries of stand-up comedy. Or, at the very least, you can enjoy a bit of schadenfreude as Brody ruins his chances with Sir Laurence Olivier.