Published Dec 15, 2014Laughter. Where does it come from? In 2014, only these five places.
Don't forget to head over to our 2014 in Lists section to see more of our Year-End coverage.
Top 5 Comedy Albums:
5. Cameron Esposito
Same Sex Symbol
Much of Esposito's second album is about her being a lesbian and the fact that so many straight people can't seem to deal with homosexuality (her own or the concept generally) in any kind of reasonable manner. She has some great moments here, delving into the confusion she has encountered from men and women who cannot conceive of her lifestyle (or else presume they can "turn" her) and even her own time dating the captain of her high school football team (she was the team mascot, a giant red bird).
Esposito says that growing up in a ho-hum Chicago suburb, she didn't realize she was gay until she was 20. She's a convincing performer who ties such revelations together neatly with the right mix of incredulity and self-expression so that this set has an orchestrated, alluring flow.
4. "Weird Al" Yankovic
Weird Al rolled out his new album like a pop culture-dominating boss with on-point videos for each of the (by his own admission) somewhat dated song parodies on his first-ever record to debut at number one. He got over the whole "Wasn't this Iggy Azalea song a hit a year ago, though?" thing by taking the basic structures and nuances of tunes by her, Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and Lorde, ignoring their original content completely and composing new songs that are actually way more timeless and universal ("Handy," "Word Crimes," "Tacky" and the batshit crazy "Foil") than their sources.
It's not an exaggeration to suggest that Yankovic actually improved every song he parodied. He's done this before, but it's been decades since he was this pervasive and on the mark beyond a couple of album singles.
3. Chris Gethard
My Comedy Album
Chris Gethard is a writer and performer renowned for his eponymous New York City cable access show, appearances on This American Life and small roles on TV shows and in films. On this compelling, profane and seemingly personal debut, he tells sharp stories about his recent past with a hangdog pace.
From a disastrous first date with a neighbour of Alan Rickman to encountering the sell-out version of his punk rock self to having his mother tell him his birth destroyed her vagina, Gethard is inwardly observational. His tales of noticing counter-intuitive advertising during I Survived to losing his straight edge by ODing on Molly at Bonnaroo are spun so masterfully that suspension of disbelief becomes an involuntary reflex. This is just very funny, well-executed writing conveyed in the perfect wise nerd persona.
2. Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan is an established master of parent humour, and anyone who's had the job will tell you that he gets every aspect of being a mom or dad to a tee. There is no pretence at being a self-involved, brooding, searching-for-myself narcissist in Gaffigan's demeanour, because anyone corralling a family into its daily existence doesn't have time for that shit. Even his jokes cut to the chase — everything Gaffigan lobs into the air about kids or food or weddings or obesity or cancer hypochondria is devastating.
This album is for adults maddened by the world they have to navigate but still capable of recognizing the absurd minutiae in a slow motion instant replay. Gaffigan places the things that blur past in view for closer inspection and then rips them (and us) to shreds. Then he probably eats a sandwich at 2 a.m.
1. Hari Kondabolu
Waiting for 2042
It's fitting that a comedian like Kondabolu would have his breakout year as civilized society is melting into itself like some hell-bound colossus that really should have known better. As a writer and performer, he's been called "political" and "race-obsessed," which are the precise kinds of reductions Kondabolu skewers so thoroughly on Waiting for 2042.
He is a truly world-class observational comic with an uncommonly rich knowledge of pop culture that enables him to riff on everything from the invention of white chocolate when brown chocolate was doing just fine to the problematic flaw in Back to the Future, which finds Doc Brown refusing to alter the space-time continuum even though he and that Delorean totally had the power to prevent slavery. And his riff on Weezer is less a respite than a meditation on how selfishly we consume the artists we love. Kondabolu speaks the provocative truth, and it's wickedly funny.