The Firesign Theatre: SHOES FOR INDUSTRY! (1993). Two CD's, 31 tracks, excellent liner notes/interview stuff by Steve Simels of STEREO REVIEW, lotsa laffs, some filler.
OK, The Beatles Of Comedy. No argument. This two-CD set pulls together some of the best of the Firesigns, including 11 minutes (not quite enough) from DON'T CRUSH THAT DWARF HAND ME THE PLIERS, the greatest comedy album of all time, more like a mind-movie than a comedy record.
What else do you need to know? Maybe you need to know that back in the day, Columbia Records sometimes sold the Firesigns' albums at bottom-budget prices -- $2.99, so cheap the record didn't even come with a paper sleeve! That's how I got my first copy of DWARF, back around 1978.
Then to take it home, play it and discover it was this psychedelic comedy trip -- well, quite a surprise. DWARF isn't perfect, it takes awhile to get going -- but once it gets rolling it's a dark, daring look at life NOW, now that everything's fragmented, you spend half your life switching channels on the TV, and nobody delivers pizza after dark up in the hills or to Sectors R or M anymore. In the end, along with being screamingly funny and even kinda scary, DWARF is surprisingly moving.
*Ahem.* Sorry about the raving. On here you get just enough of DWARF to make you want to hear the rest. There's lots of other good stuff too. "Temporarily Humbolt County" is a hilarious and brutal Native American history lesson. "Beat the Reaper!" is a hysterical game-show parody. "Ralph Spoilsport Motors" is surreal and twisted -- and check out the talking roadsigns. They sound just like the announcements that come out of the walls at the Atlanta airport. "The American Pageant" is a deeply twisted American history extravaganza. All the stuff from the Firesigns' radio show excerpted from DEAR FRIENDS is hysterical.
I can't take "Nick Danger," but I'm sure that's just a failing in me. The stuff from I THINK WE'RE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS leaves me kinda cold -- the sci-fi/clone setting of the story never really worked for me. DWARF is weirder and more surreal.
All the stuff with Reebus Caneebus is hilarious. The "Army Training Film" is sick. All the later solo stuff is lame -- how about the rest of DWARF instead?
There is filler here -- there are whole sections that bore me. Some of them are listed above. But the good stuff is SO good, so funny, words fail me. If you've never heard these guys, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Or just get DWARF and dive in deep. Worth expanding your mind for, either way. Four stars.
And thanks to Crabby for mentioning this package on his blog, or I never would have noticed it was out there!
Woody Allen: STANDUP COMIC (1978/1999). One CD, three different comedy "sets," 25 "routines," recorded 1964-68, minimal liner notes.
This was originally released in '78 as a cheap United Artists Records twofer called THE NIGHTCLUB YEARS. And though I hadn't heard this stuff since at least 1980, I played it all the way through awhile back and remembered all the jokes from 35 years ago and still laughed like a loon. That might happen to you, even if you know this material already.
Should note that this stuff was recorded before Woody became a movie star and an Academy Award-winning writer/director, and long before his adventures in court. He seems here to be taking himself much less seriously than he does nowadays.
Best moments? Well, anything regarding dating, sex, marriage, stuff like that. "The Vodka Ad," "Mechanical Objects," "The Moose," "The Great Renaldo," "Eggs Benedict" -- they're all great. Back in the day, I laughed 'til I cried. It's still pretty freakin' funny. Four stars.