Pitchfucked: Stand-up comedy is the same as music, only more acoustic

25 01 2010

Oh, Pitchfork. Your albums reviews are shining rainclouds in a world filled with rainbows and sunshine. You hate everything music has to offer, which seems strange considering you are a music publication, but that is just one of the many ways you Pitchfork people prove your superior wits to us lowly mouth-breathers. So let’s read one of your reviews together, so we can all be as educated on what should be considered good and what should be thrown into the Hudson Bay. Today’s album? Aziz Ansari’s Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, brought to us by writer Ian Cohen, who rated the album an 8.1. [note: Pitchfork, R&R]

Funny People was a divisive movie, but here’s an indisputable fact: It was 146 minutes long.

This fact is indisputable. You cannot dispute it. To even suggest such a thing would be to spit in the face of every great thinker from Plato to Hawking. Here’s more indisputable facts: The earth? Roundish. Space? Big. Ecuador? Huge exporter of bananas. Facts.

Some consider its forbidding runtime a byproduct of Judd Apatow’s success and/or ego, others proof that his deep and genuine love for stand-up comedy inspired him to go all out to create its definitive film experience. I’m inclined to think the latter, since if you share Apatow’s obsession with the artform, there were just tons of inside jokes, Easter eggs, and knowing winks that made those two and a half hours pass a little more quickly.

Of course I liked it. Why? Because I get it. It was made for people like me. I know what to look for. Did you think you were simply supposed to sit there and enjoy the film? Poor, naïve child. Movies are rich tapestries of puzzles, or rich puzzles of tapestries — you must find the secret clues. Otherwise you didn’t really enjoy the movie, like I did.

Then again, this undersells the kind of crossover appeal Ansari brings to his record.

See? I used the word record. That means I can review this comedy album, even though IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MUSIC IN ANY WAY.

It’s not at all like Roger Ebert writing a critique about Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3. Nope. If anything, it would be like Ebert reviewing Jay-Z’s music videos, which would be stupid. Why would anybody listen to what a Ebert would have to say? What type of insight could someone give in which he knows nothing about the subject. How stupid would— oh.

Though “Human Giant” was the kind of sketch show that would book the National as musical guests, as Ansari relates here on “MTV’s Next”, they also tried to find ways to shoehorn jokes about getting raped by dinosaurs.

Aziz? He’d totally be on a TV series that would try and book the National. Totally. Get used to this, because I am going to hit you with as many musical references in the next, say, 500 words, so I can feel validated for my useless review.

What will I say next? Does he grip the mic like a young Raekwon? Does his voice sound grizzled, similar to that of a Clarence Greenwood? Are his jokes playful yet deep, like the lyrics to an Owl City song? Just kidding, Owl City sucks. They represent everything that Pitchfork stands against.

Much is made of Ansari’s ties to indie rock,

And by “much” I clearly mean “nothing”.

but in the span of one bit, you’ll hear “TV on the Radio” and “titties.” (Obviously, it’s one of the two about Kanye West.) It’s a tough gig to bridge the alternative scene at Upright Citizens Brigade and the business card swap meets at the Improv, but if there was a stand-up equivalent to the indie crossover of Phoenix’s crowd-pleasing Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, this might be it.

Holy Indie clusterfuck, I just threw in a TV on the Radio, Kanye West, Phoenix and Upright Citizens Brigade reference in two sentences. That’s how you earn your cardigan sweater and horn-rimmed glasses stipend!

In a similar way, it’s pop smarts that define Ansari’s performance: He’s relatable without pandering and clever without making a flex of intellect or being overly arch.

Pop smarts are like street smarts — you either have ’em or you don’t. Who needs book smarts when you have pop smarts? You know who also has pop smarts? Sting. Sting has pop smarts. Anne Hathaway, too. You know who else? Jesus. That guy had some mean pop smarts. Not so much street smarts though, you know, with that whole “I’m knowingly going to walk into a trap and hand myself over to the people who want to kill me”. Not his best move.

In the album’s first bit, Ansari has already brought up gay marriage, Jamba Juice, and the fallibility of the SmartType feature: in terms of contemporary comedy, those may as well be C, G, and D chords.

More music metaphors, please. I need to rationalize the point of this review.

Ansari admits that he’s able to track people with celebrity crushes on him because “I do nothing but take naps all day!”

I don’t have any criticism here, that sounds just great. Naps are great. Except naps that run too close to bedtime, then you’ve just fucked up the next 36 hours of your life. Did I mean to fall asleep at 7 pm and wake up at 10? No! But it’s not my fault that Korean barbecue makes me sleepy. I couldn’t escape the itis, especially in the winter, when I crank the thermostat to a rain forest level of heat. Heat is like injecting the itis with steriods, it’s unstoppable.

But he often saves his best storytelling to relate what it’s like to hang out with famous musicians. Granted, most of it is, “I’m not even supposed to be here,” and straight-up journalism from an R. Kelly concert could often pass for comedy– you could make the argument that Kelly’s special brand of genius did all the heavy lifting.

You could make an argument that you would lose weight if you only ate rice cakes for one year. You could make an argument that Bel Biv Devoe was underrated. You could make the argument that farts smell far worse in the shower than anywhere else. You could make the argument that videos of small children being injured is funny, but of questionable taste. Will I make this argument? Maybe. Could I make this argument? Of course.

But Ansari nails what makes the spectacle so spectacular: Kelly leaving a club because he’s convinced he’ll never get a better lapdance, and of course, completely unexplained non sequiturs that dot his concerts.

I know how he could get a better lapdance that would end in the coitus of his choice — dress up like Thom Yorke and go over to Pitchfork‘s office. You wont even have to tip. In fact, the staffers there will probably pay you, Robert.

Perhaps the musician Ansari is most closely associated with is Kanye West, and his “Night Out With Kanye West” bit once again does so much to capture the tics: Before doing a private show at Kanye’s house, Ansari finds the singer alone, sitting on his couch listening to his own album. But earlier in the night, Kanye explains a long absence in the bathroom: “I was on an important phone call. I wasn’t taking a shit.” Between those two examples, he nails what often makes West such an engrossing figure– a guy with an enormous ego and an incessant need for approval.

Perhaps this is the truth — I could make that argument. Perhaps I could even make the argument that this is an indisputable fact. Perhaps. Or perhaps I could explain how Aziz Ansari’s comedy, on a deeper level, identifies the psychology of Kanye West, thus giving his album a deeper, more serious meaning of the world we live in as Americans.

Or I could just enjoy a good poop joke instead of finding meaning where there is none. Perhaps.

It’s 2010, and a famous comedian was able to do routines on R. Kelly and Kanye without using “pee on you” or “I’mma let you finish” jokes. Go see some more stand-up if that doesn’t register as cause for celebration.

It’s good to see that we still can’t get through an entire article without mentioning it.




One response

28 01 2010

This is hilarious. I just read the Pitchfork review for that special, and it sucked.

Check out my review on my blog http://theclamscasino.wordpress.com/ if you want to read a review from a normal person, not some uppity dude at Pitchfork.

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