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Born And Raised (Comedy Records)
Kampala-born stand-up (and former NOW cover dude) Arthur Simeon continues his trek to stardom with the release of his first album, which does a fine job of capturing his strengths.
Simeon addresses his background off the top, milking the phrase "For just a dollar a day..." every Westerner knows from charity infomercials, then sarcastically calling out a smug female Lululemon employee who's just come back from "helping out" in Uganda.
It's a great bit fuelled by anger and pride, and where he goes with it - he's not above selling out his country to get laid - makes it even funnier.
Simeon is also a shrewd chronicler of the modern dating scene, whether he's talking about trying to pick up women at the gym or recounting one of the most foolproof breakup excuses ever.
He wisely saves his bit about black men, cunnilingus and African hunger until near the end. It gets the biggest laugh.
Unfortunately, there's some filler on the album, including an extended joke about a soap opera that goes nowhere. And I'm a little disappointed he didn't include his jokes about how other comics make fun of Africa, or a traumatic trip with pals to African Lion Safari.
But this is a great introduction to one of the smartest stand-ups around.
Surrounded By Idiots (independent)
The cover of Simon Rakoff's Surrounded By Idiots shows the comic in full face-palm mode. It and the title sum up his act very well. Rakoff's the middle-aged Jewish guy who makes fun of the stupidity around him.
Turns out there's a lot to satirize, starting with the entertainment industry. The opening bit about putting people in witness protection programs in Canadian showbiz so they'll never be heard of again is razor sharp.
And thanks to his anti-sports rant, I'll never hear ACC ticket-sellers' cries of "Who needs Leafs' tickets?" the same way again.
He's got solid material about his Jewish heritage, including clever jokes about brises and alcohol, Jesus' sarcasm and the particular syntax of first-generation Jewish immigrants that makes them sound like Yoda.
But his strongest stuff comes at the end, when he delineates the differences between men and women and showcases his character skills. An extended bit set in caveman times is the final word in Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus humour.
JOHN HASTINGS & DYLAN GOTT
WE farted (independent)
WE farted combines the talents of John Hastings and Dylan Gott, two excellent comics who, though quite young, have enough material separately for their own albums.
The production has problems: the sound levels are uneven, and for some reason they trade off after each joke, meaning it's hard to build any rhythm.
But the jokes stand on their own. The major revelation here is Gott, who completely nails his persona as an overweight, late-20s, underachieving slacker.
Some of his best material is about eating in fast food restaurants: staring down a McD's cashier when ordering four sandwiches, theorizing why Burger King doesn't have mirrors in its washrooms, getting banned from one restaurant for botching a dirty joke.
Gott, who's got a modest vibe with flashes of anger lurking beneath, knows what he must look like, and some of the best jokes re-enact physical scenarios. The image of him in his underwear eating beans out of a can and taunting a cat is one for the ages.
Hastings has great focus and energy that work well onstage. Unfortunately, that's not evident here; he seems a little arrogant. When he stumbles over a few words, he recovers but doesn't always undo the damage.
He wisely ends with a brilliant joke about nerds ambushing a children's reading of The Hobbit, and the two comics share the mic at the end for a bonus track recounting their first time performing.