It’s that time of the year again where we present to you, dear Laughspinners, the 10 best comedy albums of the year. I say this every year, but it’s true: Since launching in 2005 and since there were well over 100 comedy albums released in 2012, this has been the most difficult year to pick just 10 great albums. As with all lists of this nature, what you see below represents our opinions, having paid close attention to the world of comedy throughout the year. I’ve asked Laughspin writers to submit their favorite albums and I’ve factored those in— especially where I saw patterns and repeat mentions of the same album.
I’m sure a great many of you will agree with our choices. I’m also positive a great many of you will passionately disagree. And that’s fine. Please feel free to use the comments section. But please act like a decent human being. This is supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to generate discussion about comedy. And it should be a place where real comedy lovers can share their opinions. So, please do all of those things— just don’t be a jerk.
Eligibility for this year’s list started on Nov. 14, 2011 and ended on Nov. 13, 2012. To be considered, the recorded material had to be at least 40 minutes (We’re not the Grammys; we have standards). We did not consider any old material that was re-released. I also want to mention that I realize there are no women on this list. We don’t hate women. Finally, I wanted to mention that there is a list of our favorite stand-up specials forthcoming. With all that said, please enjoy Laughspin’s 10 Best Comedy Albums of 2012!
10. Ben Roy – I Got Demons
If you don’t know it yet, let us be the first to say it: Ben Roy is a fucking force. Built on admissions about his former alcoholism and panic attacks, endearing-yet-X-rated tributes to his wife and son, angry rants about television and the country’s pop culture heroes and everything in between, I Got Demons is an excellent introduction to the Denver-bred comic. Not since Greg Giraldo has there been a comic with a point of view so firmly anchored in frustration and vulnerability— and those two things (along with a healthy dose of self-awareness, which Roy has) are some of the most valuable weapons a comic could own. Only time will tell if Roy will rise to the level of Giraldo’s brilliance. Consider yourself a proper comedy nerd if you already know Roy’s work. And if you don’t, consider yourself tipped off. You’re welcome. Buy it here.
9. John Moses – On the Edge
For those of you wondering when the hell Dave Attell is going to put out a new album, John Moses’ debut effort On the Edge might ease your suffering. And that’s not to say Moses is derivative of the comic’s comic, it’s just they have a similar club comic spirit. To be sure, Moses’ words come fast and furious, but not at the expense of thoughtful analysis of the world around us. Powerfully opinionated, Moses deftly editorializes on race, sex, drugs, alcoholism and just about everything you’d like to hear about from a guy born into a colorful, dysfunctional family made up of a Jamaican step-mother, a Filipino brother-in-law and a “ton of fags.” In addition to landing on our Top 10 list, we’re bestowing upon this album an honor we just made up: The One Album From 2012 You Should Get By A Comedian You Probably Never Heard Of. It just rolls of the tongue. Buy it here.
8. Patrice O’Neal – Mr. P
Though it’s been a year since Patrice O’Neal died after suffering a stroke, 2012 has certainly not been devoid of his presence. In addition to seeing him in the comedy flick Nature Calls (with Patton Oswalt), three months after his death, Mr. P was released, and with it the perfect representation of O’Neal’s brutally honest comedy. Revered in the comedy world as a guy that simply couldn’t even begin to care about what people thought about him, Mr. P finds O’Neal explaining, in no uncertain terms, why women need men, why white women are easy to deal with and why it’s nearly impossible to cheat on your girlfriend these days— all while earning sturdy laughs from the Washington D.C. audience. And while he touches on politics, slavery and yes, even his cute little dogs, O’Neal artfully proves there’s many layers to a person. It’s just that O’Neal was brave enough to expose each one of his. Buy it here.
7. Nate Bargatze – Yelled at by a Clown
For the last few years, Nate Bargatze has been gaining the respect of his peers, headlining across the country and has even cracked mainstream comedy conscience with a trio of appearances on Conan and his own half-hour special on Comedy Central. And this year, the comedy world was gifted with a hilarious, pristine set of Bargatze’s comedy to be played over and over again! “With his understated delivery and low-energy approach on stage, Bargatze proves the most valuable weapon a comedian can possess is a well-written, intelligent joke,” Laughspin scribe Billy Procida wrote in October. “Throughout the album, Bargatze bounces from quick-laugh jokes to expertly crafted stories and extended ruminations– all packed with wholly satisfying punch lines.” Bargatze is truly an everyman comic — an underdog armed only with wits — who comedy fans can’t help but embrace. Buy it here.
6. Eddie Pepitone – A Great Stillness
Though his popularity has certainly increased in the last few years, thanks, in no small part, to his brilliant use of Twitter, the documentary film The Bitter Buddha, his daily appearances on the live-action comic strip Puddin’ and the Longshot Podcast on which he appears with three co-hosts, Eddie Pepitone is still one of them most underrated comedians today. And even though the aforementioned projects highlight the veteran comedian’s lovably agitated-yet-sensitive personality, it’s his stand-up that proves the best indicator of what a truly talented humorist Pepitone is. And that’s why A Great Stillness, is so special. Recorded at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, Pepitone tells jokes, relates stories, makes the crowd part of the show, ends up heckling himself and in short, really turns the concept of stand-up comedy on its already-misshapen head. Pepitone proves that if a comic has excellent instincts, even the most absurd comedy can be delightfully accessible. Buy it here.
5. Gary Gulman – No Can Defend
Coming from a guy who has performed a perfect five minutes about grapefruit, it’s not at all surprising that Gary Gulman’s newest album features a hilarious six minutes on Netflix and 10 minutes on The Karate Kid— a deconstruction of Dorothy’s friendship with the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz embedded therein, naturally. And that’s how most of No Can Defend moves along— playfully. Perhaps most endearing about the album is that Gulman gives the listener permission to happily dwell on and laugh about some of the most seemingly trivial aspects of life. The closing bit “Role Play,” alone, is worth the $10 purchase price. The extended joke perfectly encapsulates what a brilliant writer and storyteller Gulman is. Also, No Can Defend is the only comedy album this year that contains the word “verisimilitude.” Buy it here.
4. Tom Papa – Live in New York City
Tom Papa has long been one of the comedy world’s greatest talents— albeit, one with only a single proper comedy album from 2006. Unacceptable! Thankfully that changed this year when Live in New York City was released, and comedy lovers finally had access to an updated, gorgeously polished hour of Papa. While a lot of the album is anchored on his life as a husband and father, Papa handles these well-worn concepts with class and with a level of honesty that would make most “happily married” parents cringe. Papa also knows how to go dark (drinking alone at the sink in order to deal with his family) without losing a mainstream crowd and simultaneously impress even the most obsessed sub-genre comedy snobs. Buy it here.
3. Hannibal Buress – Animal Furnace
Ever since the release of his plainly titled debut album My Name is Hannibal two years ago, Hannibal Buress has established himself as one of the straight-up funniest comics working today (he was just featured in Vanity Fair‘s comedy issue), packaging pure goofiness with sharp intelligence inside a delivery that’s equal parts laid-back cool-guy and excitable child. And his sophomore effort Animal Furnace thankfully carries on in similar fashion. Whether he’s relating the horror that is having to defecate on a plane, telling a story about trying to bed a woman obsessed with rape stats or regaling the crowd about the time he wrote an ill-fated sketch for Megan Fox during his time on Saturday Night Live, Buress has the seemingly natural ability to engage a crowd in any setting. For these reasons and more, Buress lands safely on this list. Buy it here.
2. Todd Barry – Super Crazy
He just celebrated 25 years in comedy and his latest album Super Crazy proves Todd Barry has never been funnier— which says a lot, seeing as his first three albums are packed with jokes so well written and so incisive, most comedians could only dream of matching wits. On Super Crazy, Barry, true to form, delves into the simplest of concepts – needlessly passionate Amazon reviews, obnoxious people at restaurants, dining at airports – and mines more laughs than should be possible. It’s all wrapped in Barry’s understated-yet-cocksure delivery (yes, it can be done!) and drizzled liberally in sweet, delicious derision. Buy it here.
1. John Mulaney – New in Town
What can we say about John Mulaney’s second album? Well, let’s see what Laughspin writer Jake Kroeger said about it upon its release earlier this year: “New in Town is exquisitely written and delivered with a professionalism equal to comedians twice his age.” Yep! That about summarizes the best stand-up comedy release of 2012. But you want more juice. We get it.
“Mulaney presents a perfect mix of long-form stories stuffed with satisfying details, quicker anecdotes and straight-up punch line-heavy jokes,” the review continues. “Whether it’s embarrassing stories about lying to his doctor (sometimes you have to sacrifice your ass if you want that Xanax prescription) or high school parties gone terribly awry (why yes, that is poop on your computer), the Saturday Night Live scribe approaches it with a perfect amount of self-deprecation that never inspires “awwws” from the audience. In fact, Mulaney introduces controversy every so often, though he’s always careful to disclaim a bit, as in, “This is going to get playfully anti-semetic, so just let it go there. I’ll get in trouble. You won’t.”
If you haven’t already picked up New in Town, you should do so immediately. If you own it already, please pass it along to a friend who isn’t as smart about comedy as you. Buy it here.
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