Review of Doug Benson's "Hypocritical Oaf"

In terms of popular touring headliners, Doug Benson is probably the silliest comic on the national radar. This is quite a feat considering that he’s moderately less silly than he was a decade ago. Switching from glasses to contacts is probably not the culprit, and I doubt that increasing the cannabis alone has shifted his performance style slightly from clown-core to punchline tightness. Obviously he’s still somewhere in the middle, but the balance quite suits him, and improvement is usually due to the natural progression of--well--progress.

That said, Hypocrical Oaf is solid material, right on par for Benson. Fortunately, Benson doesn’t pander to his base with a 45 minute bong-fest, and even gives a shout-out to the non-smokers in the audience. This reminds us that even though Benson is riding a cozy wave of niche-a-licious THC, his real bread and butter is--quite simply--jokes. It shows a certain amount of inner brilliance for Doug to maintain the more difficult task of multi-faceted topical humour rather than choosing the easy route of running the herb-train into the ground. Then again, it’s probably difficult in its own right to stay fresh on one topic after an off-broadway style play and a documentary film (but I digress).

I have to mention a track about McDonalds in which something sociologically interesting occurs. (::punchline spoiler:: stop reading now and finish this after you’ve enjoyed the album. The following paragraph is intended only for readers who have already purchased and lol'd).

Doug talks about performing for a crowd with a group of mentally handicapped audience members. In his anecdote he explains that while their laughter was sporadic and un-unified, a point occurred in which Doug says, “Ba-ba-ba-ba-bahhhh....” (i.e. the McDonald's jingo), and the entire group of mentally challenged patrons yelled “I’m Loving It!”. He did an impression that--coming from most other comics--would be considered unflattering to the aforementioned group and probably worth a few groans. But this impersonation got a huge pop of genuine laughter from--seemingly--the entire crowd. Why didn’t he take some hits for this bit from a presumably very liberal audience? Is Doug so good natured and affable that even when engaging a taboo such as--quite frankly--blatantly mocking the mentally handicapped, he gets a pass entirely? Is Doug so silly-mannered that he comes off harmlessly like an older-brother to the mentally disabled (i.e. “You can’t call my brother stupid, but I can?) I think the extrapolation of this joke shows two separate paradigm shifts: One--that cynical pessimism may no longer be standup comedy's can't-miss wheelhouse (would Leary's No Cure for Cancer be the landmark that it is if the same material were recorded today instead of in '92?). Secondly (and probably more culturally important): is blatant offensiveness--racism, overt misogyny, mean-spiritedness towards the mentally challenged, etc--getting to be such an arcane concept in liberal circles that they are just written-off altogether? Stay with me...

When a super right-winged political figure says something that shows ugly inner thoughts, he is immediately swept off to that podium and can never look back (Burr, 2003). Therefore, when a likable, smiling comedian says something traditionally insensitive, does the audience feel that he can't really have anything but love underneath, otherwise--in today's climate--he just flat out wouldn't have said it? Is Doug Benson's fan-base the event-horizon of liberal-fascism in pop-culture language? Does Marijuana lead the way to a more loving state of laid-back social meta-cognition? Does Ryan Stout simply need to smoke up his audiences before the show in order to weed out the groaners (n.p.i.)? Are big cities in the midwest like Minneapolis (where Hipocritical Oaf was recorded) leading the way for reasonable contextualization of dialogue?

Discuss.

Oh, and pick up Doug's very funny CD (which you should have done already if you're reading this.).

1 comment:

d said...

On Joe Rogan's podcast with Doug Benson from a few months ago, he said that marijuana was re-wiring peoples' brains in the same way that alcohol does. He thinks that this culture, that he and Benson appeal to, has different values and I think that's what you are referencing regarding the the McDonald's joke. Overall, I think you are right, the "liberal" comedy audiences are way more open to viewpoints that they may not exactly agree with (even racial ones). Additionally, white people can make jokes about black people and the other way around and many people realize that THESE ARE JUST JOKES. This is evolutionary in of itself.