Hampton Yount—a comedian, webcomic artist and creative consultant at MTV—is a lot of things on his debut album Unbearable. He’s a social commentator and wise-cracking jokester. He possesses the flight-of-fancy goofiness of Pete Holmes and the laser-sighted nerd rage of Patton Oswalt. (He even sounds like them at times.) He’s an avid meta-commentator who’ll cut off a setup for a side note. And that’s just on the first track.
There’s a lot of ambition present in Unbearable, even outside the material itself. Yount released the album himself for the low, low cost of nothing (though donations are accepted and, of course, certainly welcome). He’d noticed that comedy CDs just weren’t selling and wanted his comedic efforts up until this point to be captured by as many people as possible—a time capsule for himself and for comedy fans. “I have always taken a punk rock view of it: press the disc, get it out there, and keep growing as an artist,” he writes. “But the only way I can achieve this is cut the tether to old, working material and move on.”
Indeed, this is the fuck-all mentality of Louis C.K. But Unbearable is overloaded at times, threadbare at others and generally inconsistent. It’s more like Louis C.K.: The Early Years.
Yount’s album suffers from a lack of cohesion. He can be incredibly charming and inventive when dipping into hot topics du jour, such as the definition of “conservative” and the inherent nonsense of abstinence-only education. But he’s a major joke-abandoner, even when things are going well. He spends a few minutes building a solid argument as to why Barack Obama can’t ever live up to the Presidential hype (it involves a Pizza Hut analogy), then once a single punchline has been delivered, he skips over to another topic entirely. At the end of a joke about marijuana, he alludes to a story about his family and their drug use, but only reveals a smidge. Delving into his personal backstory might have grounded some of the earlier silliness or fleshed out his comic perspective on the drug, but instead the line serves only as a distracting aside. There are even inconsistencies in the way he self-mocks. He labels the joke “I’ve been in a relationship for three years, so of course I watch a lot of porn” as “subtle,” but when a later joke about porn acting (specifically cocks in the ass) leads him to Daniel Day-Lewis, he slips in a surprising and pitch-perfect impression of Daniel Plainview saying, “I’m an oil man,” before dismissing the line as hacky. (I’d have flipped the two tags.)
Yount is by far strongest when he embraces his taste for the fanciful and unexpected, as opposed to shunning it. That aforementioned marijuana joke begins by detailing the horrendous anti-pot PSAs on TV today, one of which implies that smoking pot makes it easier for you to get raped. “The message of that PSA should be ‘Don’t rape!’” Yount shouts to wild applause. He then outlines a scenario in which a cop goes undercover to rape a young woman just to bust her for pot smoking, further illustrating how misguided the ad—and really the whole war on drugs—really is. The longer he milks his excellent premises, the sweeter the rewards.
Sadly, the majority of the album feels rapid-fire. He makes fun of the board game Clue for roughly as long as he makes fun of weight gain between couples or crack-job conspiracy theorists. And when jokes land, he doesn’t let them sit with the audience before leaping right into the next topic. Actually, the only pauses present on Unbearable come when Yount jumps into the next topic so quickly that he has to stammer a bit during his introduction with a bunch of “like”s and “um”s—which happens quite often. The album doesn’t feel as crisp or clean as it should; the vibe is more of an open-mic setlist (albeit a really good one) than a polished and honed record.
As far as the topics he chooses, it’s difficult to discern what sorts of things Yount would find funny. The album covers political discourse from afar (mocking through observational humor), but ridicules Canadian Club ads and porn awards from within, personifying characters in the stories he’s telling with the exuberance of somebody like Oswalt. Not that there’s any reason Yount shouldn’t be allowed to do multiple things on a single album. He’s clearly got a lot of ambitious ideas and is diligent about seeing them through, even if it means putting out this entire album himself at little to no profit. But given the lack of a through-line or a final spit-shine, Unbearable is an EP’s worth of goofy and poignant moments lost in the clutter of putting out an LP.