The Best Comedy Releases of 2012
The year heartfelt comedy melted
our steely tickers

By Steve Heisler

1. Tig Notaro, Live

tig notaro

There is a way to make everything funny. Everything. And there is no finer example of this concept than Tig Notaro’s accidental comedy gem—an album recorded from a set at Largo that the owner just so happened to tape. Having recently received a cancer diagnosis, Notaro is honest in a way that’s not only inspiring for other comedians, but for everyone hoping to face problems head on. Notaro does so with immeasurable grace and wit, letting the world know that comedy is her armor, and that truth in comedy isn’t just a catchy phrase, it’s a goddamn prerequisite.

2. Kyle Kinane, Whiskey Icarus

Kyle Kinane is the world’s finest Kyle Kinane observational comic. He mines his gleeful, disturbing impulses and the resulting happenstance—ordering pizza so many times he receives one completely unsliced, taking a cab through a Wendy’s drive-thru—for every absurd, dark comedy gem. His clairvoyance and willingness to mock himself makes Whiskey Icarus sparkle.

3. Patrice O’Neal, Mr. P

Released shortly after his sudden passing, Mr. P is an excellent distillation of what made Patrice O’Neal so magnetic. His honesty is unparalleled, even if doesn’t come across to some as politically correct, and his command of the room is palpable even from simply listening at home.

4. John Mulaney, New in Town

John Mulaney is a clown who sees fellow clowns everywhere he goes—on the streets of New York, at the doctor’s office, Ice-T on Law & Order: SVU. And because he’s a clown himself, he’s eager to delve into these equally clownish minds and see what makes them tick. New In Town is an expert sociological case study of the goofballs who make our days all the more entertaining.

5. Louis C.K., Live at the Beacon Theater

We all know who Louis C.K. is, either via his many spectacular albums or his wonderful television show. But Live at the Beacon Theater showcases the rest of the cast, so to speak. C.K. fleshes out the characterizations of his daughters, the kid at their school he hates and all other manner of the people orbiting this man, capable of turning these interactions into tales of humility and ego, heartbreak and heartfelt-ness. There are two sides to many of C.K.’s thoughts, and this year we got to know everyone involved.

6. Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe

Nobody can break down the absurdity of the everyday quite like Jim Gaffigan. He’s a master of finding a hundred thousand funny things about something as ubiquitous as McDonald’s—then just when you think he’s done, he’s got more. Mr. Universe is one of Gaffigan’s finest pieces of work, taking his observations to their next logical conclusion—thus a rant about McDonald’s becomes about junk food culture in general. Gaffigan inserts himself into the conversation masterfully, and his material thanks him for it.

7. Hannibal Buress, Animal Furnace

Animal Furnace is Hannibal Buress at his most comfortable on stage. He reads an article from a school paper knowing full well it’s a self-fulfilling bit, but confident the audience will come along with him. He tells stories about touring, touting his modest fame, again trusting the audience. He’s effortlessly charismatic, but his writing hasn’t suffered. It’s stronger than ever—on his pages, vomit can be channeled into a hadouken and apple juice is the end-all, be-all worthy of conquering racism. And he’s only going to get better.

8. The Apple Sisters, 1943

This is musical comedy as it should be. On 1943, The Apple Sisters play with different rhythms, both comedically and musically. One cannot exist without the other, and that interplay is the source of great conceptual humor. They sing about tapeworms, creepy Vegas dudes and “Handsome Coffee Roasters,” each track containing enough craft and cleverness to make 1943 a captivating listen.

9. Paul F. Tompkins, Laboring Under Delusions

Paul F. Tompkins has always been a masterful storyteller, but he truly shines on Laboring Under Delusions, the grand saga of how his past jobs led him to the comedy business. Tales about his video-clerk days are rich with details that unfold and wrap around each other like a children’s pop-up book. Plus, he worked in a hat store, but focuses his entire bit on people’s insistence on trying on the crown—or as they call it, “the King Hat.” Tompkins is adept at the minutia and the big picture, and Laboring is truly his labor of love.

10. T.J. Miller, Mash Up AudioFile

Few comics are as absurd as T.J. Miller, but then again few comics could get away with it. Where the world sees a guy with an eye patch under glasses, Miller sees a wasted opportunity to wear a monocle—and he says it with such delight that it’s impossible not to share in that insanity. Far better than last year’s rap album, it captures his multimedia-saturated, freak-show view of the world.

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