There's something comforting about the fact that Doug Benson releases a new stand-up comedy album once a year. It's reassuring in its consistency. It also takes some of the pressure off of Benson to deliver a "classic" with each new album; because he's become so prolific, we're no longer expecting each new record to be a lasting piece of comedy history, the way each new album from George Carlin felt. A new Doug Benson album only needs to hold us over until the next one comes out in a year, and it's only after we're able to step back and consider all of the albums together as a single body of work that we'll have a real picture of Benson as a comic.
Of course, Potty Mouth, Benson's fourth and latest album, also gives a pretty good idea of who he is as a comic. He's silly and giggly and possibly more than a little stoned, as anyone who follows his career (or who has heard one of his past albums) probably already knows; even the title is a play on "pot" (and, like his last few records, was recorded on April 20, this time at the Punch Line in Sacramento). Much of Benson's comedy comes down to small observations and clever wordplay, and what gives it its charm is the way that it often feels like he's making his act up on the spot. That's going to put off some comedy fans, who like more structure and urgency in their stand-up albums. Doug Benson is not the comic for those people. But for those people who are already fans or know what they're in for, Potty Mouth is a very entertaining album.
It should come as no surprise that a good deal of Potty Mouth focuses on pot humor, of which I'm on record as not really being a fan. Somehow, though, Benson makes it palatable, if only because his goofiness is so infectious -- more than most comics, it's always apparent just how much fun Benson is having on stage in front of an audience. At times, the album becomes almost post-modern: it's a deconstruction of a live comedy act, and becomes about a comedian trying to get through an act as it is a comedian's act. Benson is able to make the stumbles and mistakes just as funny as the punchlines -- no easy feat -- and the offbeat rhythms of the jokes given the album is shambling charm.
Benson is also a comic in love with certain new social media. He was one of the earliest adopters of Twitter as a means of crafting brief, punchy, individual jokes. He's carried that over to the album (and to his show, The Benson Interruption, on which he would engage in "Tweet-offs" with fellow comics), where it doesn't always work. He reads tweets from the audience in attendance to kick things off, and later reads some of his own favorite tweets from the recent past. As jokes, they're funny, but there's a sense of killing time in the bit (especially if you follow Benson on Twitter, in which case you may have already heard the jokes) not found elsewhere on the album. Of course, it's very much a part of Benson's live act, so I'm glad it's been included here. More than anything else, Potty Mouth feels less like an album and more like being at a Benson club show. Minus the pot smell, of course.
Potty Mouth would be worth buying if for no other reason than because it contains a second disc, which is a DVD of all six episodes of Benson's Comedy Central series The Benson Interruption. I watched the series back when it aired and never really felt like it worked as a TV show (as a live act it makes more sense), but I appreciate the fact that neither Benson nor Comedy Central are trying to sell a separate DVD of the series to fans. If you like what you hear on Potty Mouth, the DVD is a good extension of the album's charms. While I prefer Benson's solo act, I think it's great that the second disc has been included. Value added, I think it's called.
- Album Release Date: 8/30/11
- Label: Comedy Central Records