Chad Daniels
You're The Best
Stand Up! Records

By Michael Tedder

Uncertain how to properly enjoy You’re The Best? Chad Daniels is more than happy to instruct what to do. After joking that the Kardashian Family motto should be “Getting black men off since the OJ trial,” Daniels surveys the audience’s reaction to the bit. Which, it should be pointed out, goes for a cheap and easy pop-culture punchline, but at least he takes it to an interesting place.

chad daniels

“Did you hear what just happened in this crowd? Some people clapped. That means those words, in that order, floated through the air, went into someone’s ear, hit their brain and their brain was like, ‘Quick, throw your hands together.’ Those same words went through the air in that same order and went into someone else’s ear and hit their brain, and their brain told them to go, ‘Mawww.’ [A rough translation of that sound is a disappointed cat.] Your brain sucks shit. If words hit your brain and your brain’s response is, ‘Mawww,’ then you have the worst brain of all time.”

Just relax and don’t be so uptight about dicey humor, Daniels implies. There’s been a lot of that sort of sentiment in recent comedy discs, for better and worse, as it can end up being a cheap cop-out for lazy, mean-spirited humor. But the noteworthy thing is that this bit follows an earlier anecdote about yelling at his grandmother for using the phrase “Jewed him down.” (“I said, ‘What in the hell is wrong with you?’ But no one heard my grandmother say, ‘Jewed him down,’ they just heard me yell at an old lady.”) Daniels has both a moral compass and mischievous spirit. He knows right from wrong, but he wants to see what he can get away with. Which is quite a bit, actually.

Daniels has a dry, measured tone of voice. His default mode is to sound vaguely exhausted and annoyed at all times, but he can vary it for different effects as needed. He does nimble and quick but still detached, occasionally recalling Danny McBride, when he wants to squeeze in an extra laugh. But his best trick is allowing his annoyance to simmer into something approaching full-blown anger without ever quite boiling over. His tone doesn’t become heated, but in an impressive feat of technical control he hits his consonants harder and faster while barely changing his volume. It suggests he’s angry while also aware of how ridiculous it is he’s so upset that, say, someone got pissed off at him for not knowing where the food court is at the mall. (The run this launches into, concerning how complicated the driving and planning would have to be for him to regularly get lunch in said food court is a feat of low-key technical bravado.)

This technique is vital to Daniels’s approach. Without didactically explaining things, it demonstrates that he realizes it’s stupid to get so wound up about family dramas, and he knows his overreactions are inappropriate (he seems awfully close to allowing his family to drown after a canoe trip gone wrong), but he just can’t keep himself from going there.

This does not give him cart blanche to say whatever he wants, however. A joke about fucking a woman’s belly button after her mouth is swollen from getting slapped is disgusting. (It’s delivered in such a rushed, off-handed manner that it suggests even Daniels knew he went too far.) His explanation about why it’s okay to joke about AIDS (having to take medicine all the time is less a pain in the ass than an unplanned pregnancy) is dicey at best, but this oversimplification is mainly a way of taking a hard segue into his argument that kids are a major pain in the ass. (Also, it’s interesting to learn that one can get arrested for telling a cop you hope he gets AIDS. Who knew?)

There’s a handful of solid-if-out-of-place political humor near the end of Best, but the main focus here is his life as a family man. He’s got two kids that he loves, and he goes into detail about the ways they drive him crazy (the daughter keeps asking how the refrigerator magnet works; the boy doesn’t realize that if he keeps showing off his erection, “Child services will take you away from me.”) and how worried he gets for them (he plans on installing a noisemaker in his daughter that will make a baby sound every time she spreads her legs. Better therapy bills than abortion-clinic visits, he muses.) Dads talking about goofy things their kids do is Middle-Age Comedian 101, but the level of annoyance and creativity on display feels unique. Every dad gets driven up the wall, but Daniels becomes so agitated about it that he says things that are often hilariously regrettable, and usually deserving of much more than a “Mawww.”

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