John Mulaney's debut stand-up album, The Top Part, is remarkably assured for a first effort. Sharply written, expertly timed and delivered with a refreshing lack of pretense, the album is even more impressive given the fact that it was recorded when Mulaney (who, in his day job, is a writer for Saturday Night Live) was just 26 years old.
What I like about the album -- and about Mulaney in general -- is that he doesn't have an obvious "hook." He hasn't gone to great lengths to create some comedic persona or be known as the "fill-in-the-blank" guy. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a voice (something I've harped on other comics for in the past). He sees the world with a bit of amused detachment, and is simply funny in an unassuming way. Sometimes, funny is enough.
The Top Part finds Mulaney riffing on cheap drinks (and why they can kill you), drag queens (and why they're so mean), the virtues of playing Tom Jones on a jukebox and, best of all, TV's Law & Order. The latter bit is destined to be a kind of pop culture classic, not unlike Jim Gaffigan's "Hot Pockets" routine; Law & Order is so ubiquitous and so many people have seen it, but no one's ever broken it down like Mulaney. When you actually think about how he describes the show, it becomes totally obvious. That's also why it's so funny. It's truth hiding in plain sight.
The Best So Far
I was already a fan of Mulaney from his days on Best Week Ever and from when I saw him performing with the Comedians of Comedy, but this album even snuck up on me. I laughed loudly and consistently as I listened, but it wasn't until I had heard the whole thing that I realized just how consistent it was -- there isn't a bad bit on it -- and how well it was structured, building to a long and funny story about Tom Jones and a jukebox.
2009 is only a third of the way over, but The Top Part is on an early shortlist of the best stand-up albums of the year so far. Mulaney is likely going to blow up very soon, and he absolutely deserves it. The Top Part is proof of that.
- Release Date: 3/24/09
- Label: Comedy Central Records