Right from the opening seconds of his most recent stand-up album, Paul & Oates, Paul Varghese gives his audience members and listeners a choice. Do we all want to keep listening to him, or should we just close out our tabs right now and quickly call it a night? To determine the outcome, Varghese dispenses three test jokes in rapid succession. The first? “My friend is a Jehovah’s Witness, and he got pissed when he told a knock-knock joke and I ignored him.” Okay Paul, you had me at hello. Or, perhaps in this case, whatever the non-answering equivalent of “hello” is.
The remainder of Varghese’s very full-flushed and entertaining effort follows similar suit. The Dallas native and veteran of Last Comic Standing plays the nice smart-ass to a delicious T, dispensing razor-sharp observations while wearing an expression that’s both shit-eating grin and charming smile at once.
“You know how mad you gotta be to throw a rock at a tank?” Varghese riffs on third-world revolutions. “We all know that paper beats rock. And tank really beats rock!” But would-be revolutionaries aren’t the only targets for Varghese’s scathing wit. As the album runs its course, Varghese creates some arresting comic imagery at his own expense: “I need to gain weight, or else the pallbearer at my funeral will be holding up my coffin like a boombox.”
His immigrant father, too, is a popular object of good-natured ridicule. For example, the phrases “passed out” and “passed away” prove interchangeable to an English-as-a-second-language practitioner, and so, well, you can probably imagine the horrified confusion that ensues when the elder Varghese the tries to tell his son that his mother is taking a nap.
In all, Paul & Oates is a thoroughly enjoyable stand-up outing from an undeniably promising comedic talent. Only suggestion: title the next album Paul is Dead (Or Perhaps Just Passed Out).