The most revered comedians of today, Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., Marc Maron, and even the late Patrice O’Neal have all contributed to a trend in stand-up that rejects the conventions of stand-up during its boom almost two decades ago. They sound incredibly organic in their delivery, cadence, and timing, and it’s often hard to tell where they have “hidden” their jokes and punchlines while they run through their hysterical material. However, just because it’s the popular trend to not sound like you’re telling jokes in stand-up, it’s certainly not a style of comedy that has been permanently invalidated. Ryan Stout, with his latest album Touché, is proof positive that having a clear cut set-up-and-punch-Line style of humor is far from dead and, more importantly, very far from being unfunny.
For those of you unaware of Ryan Stout’s Comedy Central special or his regular appearances on the Chelsea Lately panel, he’s a perfect showcase of joke craftsmanship and how topics that have been touched on by other comedians purely for their shock value can be made, with a sharp mind, into an exquisitely hilarious observation. On Touché, Stout has jokes on rape, the “n-word”, child molestation, missing limbs, anal sex, and more, but done in a hilarious, very high brow way. Also, nearly all of those jokes are done without cursing, which is another feat to which most comedians can’t lay claim when making light of such dark subject matter AND being funny while doing it.
Stout has a very methodical style of comedy — jokes are being told — yet he tells the jokes in such a beautiful way, hardly repeating phrases, paying careful attention to diction as well as economy of words, and being absolutely precise in his timing and delivery, that it makes for a remarkable 50-minute listen. Many of the jokes had me cheering (yes, while I was listening on my laptop with headphones on, I cheered) Stout, as he would finish off a joke about underprivileged children in third world countries, for how the writing and performance so elegantly came together. On top of that, it’s pretty damn funny that Stout grades his audiences at their reactions to his material and making them also laugh at that.
Stout’s Touché, sadly absent from comedy album lists of 2011 due to its December release, is a great reminder of how stand-up comedy isn’t just misanthropic nerds letting out their bottled up rage to the world, and how amazing classic joke-telling can be when done right.