It's easy to understand why Kyle Cease is so beloved by his fans. He clearly loves performing, and it comes across every second he's on stage. He does crowd work and engages the audience in a way that's fun and upbeat instead of beating them up or roasting them mercilessly. Mostly, though, it's his willingness to be completely silly that his fans seem to respond to. Like a few other comics including Matt Braunger and (especially) Pete Holmes, Kyle Cease enjoys being weird.
On I Highly Recommend This, Cease's third stand-up album, everything that makes him such a fan favorite is fully on display -- the record is a great statement of exactly who he is as a comic. There are very few long-form routines on the album, since part of its charm is how often Cease deliberately goes off on long, winding tangents until he's nowhere near where he began. Sometimes, the jokes call attention to themselves as being jokes. In one bit, he samples one of his old routines and remixes it by talking over it. There are a lot of ideas on the album, not all of which work, and it's a bit all over the place, but one has to admire Cease's see-what-sticks approach.
As much as I enjoyed Cease's energy and enthusiasm, there wasn't a ton of stuff on I Highly Recommend This that actually made me laugh. Once again it comes down to comedy being totally subjective, because there are plenty of people for who this will be one of the funniest albums of the year. I get that. We all have certain kinds of comedy that we respond to, and what Cease is doing isn't going to appeal to everyone. I came away from the album liking him as a person, as a presence and as a performer more than I necessarily liked a lot of the material. It has an improvised feel, probably because that's a big part of Cease's approach as a comic: take silly detours, see what gets a good reaction and keep pushing in that direction. He also does a good deal of crowd work on the album, which is pretty typical for a club show but less so for the recording of a CD. It speaks to Cease's confidence and skill as a performer that he's able to do long stretches on stage without much of a safety net.
Comedy is such a difficult thing to review, because we all have different ideas of what's funny. It's something we stand-up fans run into again and again and again. So just because I didn't necessarily laugh a great deal during I Highly Recommend This doesn't mean I didn't still have a good time with it. It's a fun album, and Cease is an enjoyable presence. So it may not be "highly," but I can still recommend this.
Oh, man. Every single person who writes about this album is going to do that.
The CD from Comedy Central Records comes with a bonus DVD of Cease's Comedy Central Presents stand-up special (I believe it's the one that won him the network's Stand-up Showdown in 2009) and a collection of short videos he has made over the years. It's a nice added feature for fans of the comic.
- Album Release Date: 9/4/12
- Label: Comedy Central Records