The folks behind the HOLY FUCK. Live Comedy. album are trying to preserve some modesty with that period at the end of the title. But this is an aptly-named compilation of performances from the weekly show hosted at LA’s Downtown Independent Theater, put together by Dave Ross, Jeff Wattenhofer, Matt Ingebreston, Megan Koester and Jeremy Burke. Why such a large team? It takes precisely that many people to assemble this 47-track double-disc buffet.
There are comics from every level of indie cool, veterans like Dana Gould and Jackie Kashian, contemporary staples like Matt Braunger, Kyle Kinane, T.J. Miller and Eric André, and up-and-comers like Zach Sherwin, Lizzy Cooperman, Hampton Yount and Johnny Pemberton. The collection is impressive in breadth alone, but it’s also remarkable in its consistency. While not every track is a winner, there are no particularly egregious fails. There are a lot of great laughs, and even the least among these sets offers some redeeming qualities.
Perhaps because of his reputation as an alt-comic guru, Gould comes out of the gate challenging himself and the audience on disc one: “Let’s start with an AIDS joke, a rape joke and a joke about 9/11.” And he pulls it off, mostly through misdirection that turns the premise away from the serious to the absurdly silly. The setup for the 9/11 joke isn’t entirely original, but the payoff works. There are some great one-liners like Allen Strickland Williams‘s “Fool me once, go fuck yourself.” André offers a near five-minute litany of possible band names (“Ancient Korean Boner Reducer,” which is based on a true story, and “Bad Black Brown,” also possibly the name of the best Blaxploitation character ever). Kashian has a great bit on friends who try to preserve their pets perhaps a bit too long.
Miller’s track most sorely misses a visual element—there is a lot of laughter during his silences—but it ends with an amusing aside from the host: “I want to apologize to the listeners. We’re just going to call that track ‘Trust Us.’” Sean Patton doesn’t represent himself terribly well with his mini-roast of his fellow comedians, but it’s off-the-cuff enough to be an affable three-minute diversion. All fairly minor complaints.
No one gets more than five minutes, and minus three interstitial tracks, that leaves samples of 44 stand-up comedians. Styles and voices differ wildly, including Kinane’s oddball, aggressive delivery, Eric Dadourian’s delightful but morbid storytelling, Michelle Buteau’s urban outsider in the country, Sherwin’s breakdown of rapper Nas’s approach to slang, or Barbara Gray’s riffs on weird sexual practices. Five minutes may not be enough to get the true essence of many of these comics, but that would be true of the live show, too. There will likely be several names here the average fan may not know, though that’s all part of the fun. Most should find at least a few new, intriguing voices worthy of further investigation and more than enough laughs to justify listening all the way through.