Review: True Stories I Made Up

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I've had a long, complicated relationship with stand-up comedy. In my childhood, stand-up albums by Bill Cosby and George Carlin were part of my early exposure to comedy that led to my wanting to get into the field in the first place. But in the early 90s as I began to discover improv, my enthusiasm became somewhat militant. Combined with some lousy personal encounters with jerk-faces who happened to be stand-ups, and I decided to write off the whole genre. Improvisors were making art, I thought, stand-ups were just telling jokes.

Well, the years have passed, and I've matured a little and I've come to two realizations. For one, I made a conscious decision to reach out to other theatrical disciplines for techniques and inspiration that I could bring back to my improv (I should tell y'all the contact improv story) and in that light, performers like John Leguizamo made me realize that there was a blurry line between some stand-up and something I'd call Solo Performance. And also, I've mellowed-out some and decided that there's nothing wrong with a joke every now and then.

So Bill Hicks, and then Patton Oswalt, and then Mitch Hedberg, and and then all the Chicago Underground Comedy comics who come play at Don't Spit the Water have been leading me into stand-up more and more. And with my usual collector's obsession, I've been acquiring comedy albums like there's no tomorrow. And so when some comedy CDs showed up in my mailbox "for review" I thought, "Well, I have a keyboard and opinions..." So...

Daniel Tosh - True Stories I Made Up
Daniel Tosh, True Stories I Made Up (Comedy Central Records)

I had never heard of Daniel Tosh before this album came to me, but he's on my list now: this album is funny.

Daniel (is that too familiar? Mr. Tosh?) tells jokes. Not "knock knock" or "my wife is so fat," jokes, but not personal monologues or true-ish stories, either -- the title of the album is accurate, these are Stories that he's Made Up.

I don't do segues, get used to that. A lot of comics do: "I was at the mall last week..." No, you weren't. Do your joke.

The topics covered are the usual free-range of the modern comic: sports and plastic surgery, the benefits of lying and the difficulties of explaining a nightmare to someone else. But it's not the topic, it's the flights of fancy inspired by the topic.

I don't like to do jokes about stereotypes, but we all know basketball players can't swim very well.

Oh, and it's his delivery, too. Daniel deliveries all the jokes with an astonishing confidence, and in fact is kind of mean. The meanness was really interesting to me -- in one bit he's calling any women in the audience who've had plastic surgery "whores". A few minutes later, he's talking about his girlfriend's breast implants. It's a Made Up meanness.

But Hollywood, on their moral high-horse, they won't make a movie about a retarded chimp. Unless, of course, you count a Vin Diesel movie.

The CD comes with a DVD of a half-hour Comedy Central Presents special (well, 20 minutes, sans commercials), which is a great new development in stand-up CDs. So much of comedy is visual and it enhances the CD to be able to visual his expressions, even with a largely verbal comedian like Daniel Tosh.

Daniel Tosh, True Stories I Made Up, gets a FuzzyCo "yeah, that's good."

Hey, you can win a copy of True Stories I Made Up from my other website -- The New Improv Page.