The title of Kurt Braunohler’s debut album, How Do I Land?, comes from the hilarious and absurd stunt he pulled off this past March, for which he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 so he could enlist a pilot to skywrite “HOW DO I LAND?” across the Los Angeles sky. As Braunohler explains on the album, he believes inserting stupidity and absurdity into daily life for their own sake can make the world a better place, if only for a short time. Going so far as to say this premise is his “purpose as a comedian,” it’s quite clear that these are not hollow words, but rather something of a guiding vision for Braunohler’s onstage persona.
What How Do I Land? lacks in structure and cohesion, it makes up for in nuance and idiosyncrasy. Throughout the album, Braunohler swings between polished, well-prepared bits and rougher, more free-flowing moments, like his recitations of tweets no one liked or his retellings of phrases he signed in others’ books at Barnes & Noble. These moments aren’t immaculately constructed, memorized verbatim “bits,” but rather unique vehicles that showcase Braunohler’s equally unique perspective.
To some extent, comedians who deal in absurdity can’t be confined to the classic five-minute chunk that continuously builds to an ultimate crescendo (think George Carlin or Bill Burr) because, by absurdity’s very nature, the medium defies that conventionally agreed-upon structure. The tactic would only fail if the material weren’t funny or memorable. Braunohler, however, has a tone and delivery that infuse much of his material with a singular and compelling feel. He often comes off as a nice albeit conceited guy who’s going to dictate his musings at you, regardless of what you want.
That said, Braunohler’s comedy doesn’t entirely eschew punchlines or abstain from storytelling. One of the highlights of the album comes when Braunohler makes a fool of himself by lying that he can speak German when auditioning next to Sacha Baron Cohen for a role in Borat. The seven-minute track is a straight-up story with no pretense; the only absurdity is that which Braunohler can’t help but inject into his own offstage life. Other moments scattered throughout How Do I Land? deal in observations, like how “people bring their fucking A-game to public bathrooms” or that one should never get into a race with someone driving a PT Cruiser “because that guy has got nothing to lose.”
Quality material and a distinct perspective are without question the bedrock of worthwhile comedy, yet few comedians can put on a good show without a bit of showmanship. Braunohler’s not Chris Rock pacing the stage or Brian Regan making faces, but he’s clearly aware of how to use his tools, slowing down his cadence, raising his voice, sitting in those awkward moments. The end result is an album that does justice to its author: 52 minutes of consistently entertaining, unique and intelligent comedy that serves as a faithful portrayal of the voice behind the mic.