While individual jokes may be easier for many comedians to come up with than long-form, fully-developed bits, I might argue that it's harder to sustain an entire comedy album with just jokes. Yes, several of the greats like Steve Martin, Steven Wright and the late Mitch Hedberg were able to do it, but the rapid-fire approach doesn't necessarily lend itself to creating a longer album. For starters, you need more jokes because you don't have any filler to take up space. You also need to have a better overall average, because you've got way more at-bats (I say this as someone who can't speak in sports metaphors). Yes, the payoffs to such an approach are more immediate -- after all, it's nothing but set-up/joke, set-up/joke -- but there's no rise and fall. The pace is set early on and has to be maintained for the entire length of the album.
Thankfully, Nick Thune manages to do just that on his debut album Thick Noon. Drawing inspiration from Hedberg (funny, ironic, deadpan one-liners) and Steve Martin (who incorporated a banjo into his act, while Thune chooses instead to strum a guitar), Thune has created an album that, for a while at least, consistently delivers a steady stream of excellent absurdist one-liners. There's way more hits than misses here, and that first run (several minutes go by before Thune breaks to start a new bit) is excellent, full of the kinds of jokes you'll be repeating to your friends for weeks. Just don't try and pass them off as your own. That's tacky.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album -- consisting not of stand-up material but of some recorded studio tracks -- isn't nearly as strong as the first half. The songs (with titles like "Here Girl [For a Lost Pregnant Dog]" and "Lobster") are amusing at best, and Thune has done a good job at ironically recreating cheesy '80s synth-pop, but they simply aren't as funny as his stand-up and don't really warrant any repeat listens. I appreciate the ambition of Thick Noon, showcasing Thune not just as a stand-up and not just as a musical comic but as a hybrid of both, but it's clear that he's better at one than the other. At the same time, maybe it's better that the entire record isn't devoted to stand-up, as there's a chance that Thune wouldn't have successfully maintained the momentum he achieves on Thick Noon. It's half of a very funny record and half a curiosity, but I'll recommend it for the half that's really funny. Don't be surprised when you're repeating jokes about CoinStar or Lifesavers mere hours after you give the album a listen.
The album also contains a bonus DVD that features Thune's Comedy Central Presents stand-up special (in both its edited and unedited forms, which is a strange decision), plus the comedians "Nick's Big Show" shorts and several other short films. While there's some repetition from the album to the contents of the DVD, it's nice that you'll get some bonus content. It's more Thune for your money. That's a good thing.
- Release Date: 2/23/10
- Label: Comedy Central Records