Brent Weinbach is weird. Gloriously weird. Too many “weird” comedians rely on being strange as a distraction so the audience won’t pay attention to whether or not their material is any good, but Weinbach’s weirdness is genuine. It’s magnetic. It’s the main event, not the distraction. You’re not sure what kind of brain comes up with material like his, but you’re thankful for it and you’ll give its owner your undivided attention.
Weinbach’s third release, Mostly Live, features all-new material recorded mostly live (just like the title says!) at UCB LA,with some studio bits interspersed. Rather than your typical comedy album of traditional jokes or bits, the tracks vary from impressions to elaborately set-up stories to audience participation. It jumps from highbrow to lowbrow, from obscure to routine, from squeaky clean to raunchy, all in the blink of an eye. And as previously mentioned, it’s weird, it’s very funny, and parts of it border on genius.
Mostly Live opens with what one can only assume is a spot-on impression of a cunnilingus-loving YouTube pervert. (I personally don’t have basis for comparison, but it seemed accurate.) Mind you, this impression is delivered with absolutely no preface, but it still works. That’s one of the most impressive things about Weinbach’s material. He’s such a gifted comedian that audiences are willing to go to bizarre, uncomfortable places with him without justification. Sometimes he’ll offer an explanation or some background information, but he sells his material so skillfully that it’s not even necessary.
More often than not Weinbach mines the bizarre for material, but when he does turn to the mundane he examines it through a completely new filter. His Netflix joke starts off as a seemingly innocuous half-joke about Netflix for kids, but as he continues he reveals that he’s actually proposing a service that mails out children in place of DVDs. A later joke about strip clubs turns into an uncomfortably funny audience-participation bit about the inherently perverse intent of friendly strip-club outings. While some comedians muse about the ordinary and seem to take the words right out of your mouth, Brent Weinbach warps the ordinary so much that you’re not necessarily sure you know what it is anymore. He has a knack for making the pedestrian subversive.
One of the risks Weinbach takes that pays off in spades is his willingness to cover highbrow material. Though his topical comedy and raunchier jokes are well executed, some of the most rewarding jokes are his loftier ones. On an album where he impersonates a gay train and sings a song about taking pictures of his fecal matter, it might surprise some that jokes about Tuvan throat singing are right there alongside them. Perhaps the crowing glory of the album is “Latin,” where Weinbach posits that someone who has forgotten the words to their Latin hymn (And who hasn’t found themselves in such a situation?) could simply read the ingredients from a bag of Doritos (Because of course you have those handy in church.) Rather than shy away from such a premise he takes a leap of faith and hopes that the audience will rise to the occasion, which they can’t help but do.
It helps that Brent Weinbach is incredibly clever, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has an extremely unique voice—his actual voice, not his artistic voice, although that is also very original. Brent Weinbach’s regular speaking voice sounds a little like Kermit the Frog, but despite his distinctive timbre, he has an uncanny knack at assuming different characters. When you’re listening to his album it’s easy to forget that it’s even the same person the whole time. From an enthusiastic reggae performer to a mousy telemarketer, these eerily accurate impersonations come out of left field to impress and delight. When the Vietnamese-jazz-vocalist-who-works-as-a-waiter-during-the-daytime assumes the mic it takes only a few seconds to overcome the “What the hell?!” factor and savor this bit of nonsensical ingenuity. Weinbach has the kind of voice you’d listen to read the phone book, and in a hidden track, you get close to that when he recites the Russian alphabet.
For those who listen to Mostly Live or who get a chance to catch Brent Weinbach perform, it is imperative that they take their friends by the shoulders, look them squarely in the eye and implore them to become familiar with Weinbach’s comedy. Because you really can’t repeat one of his jokes without a lot of explanation and attempts at mimicry, and even then you’re not going to get the inimitable delivery that makes his comedy so satisfying. He is a one-of-a-kind performer who must be experienced firsthand, and the more people who can understand that and share in the delight of Weinbach’s weird ways, the better.