The walls of Boston's Wilbur Theater were certainly littered with laughter the night comedian Myq Kaplan stepped onstage to record what would be his newest stand up album and special... Small, Dork and Handsome. Kicking off with, "In conclusion, a joke about time travel. But first, everything else..." the album continues to deliver nothing but a steady flow of A-level material from a guy who is continually growing into his own.
If there's one constant in the album it's the comic's distinct and truly original ability to prove that the traditional "set up / punchline" format is no longer the prominent way of performing stand up comedy. As the listener will take in – much like the audience in attendance – the evening in which the album was recorded was filled (and I do mean filled) with funny from beginning to end – holding minimal, if any, lulls in laughter.
Many of the surprises of Small, Dork and Handsome come from the unexpected and seemingly unwritten jokes within the jokes. Track six, for instance, titled Buddhism, Feminism, and Math, is a three minute and twenty-five second journey that not only touches upon the subjects within the title, but also introduces puns and quips that leave us questioning whether or not they were prepared or completely improvised in the moment. In discussing those who mock has last name, asking if he could make them more intelligent (based on the Kaplan Test Prep), the comic's witty return is flawlessly, "I feel like with that attitude anyone could make you smarter. I feel as though a tree could help you. Not that a tree would help. Would help... extra joke!"
And let's not forget his short, but effective quip about men receiving emails for enlarging their penis size, "Do you want your d--k to be bigger, thicker, wider, hung more like a horse? Hung like a horse? Of course, of course! That's a joke for the Wilburrrr Theater."
Small, Dork and Handsome stands strong among Kaplan's other releases, carrying all the delight of Vegan Mind Meld (2010) and Meat Robot (2013); however, what appears different is the heavy amount of growth and conviction that one year of honing your craft can do for an artist. This is not to say that his other releases were taken as subpar in any way, but the comedian's undeniable development in such a brief amount of time is rather fascinating. In short, what I'm saying is the 2014 release is undoubtedly his strongest yet.
Fist Bumps, Duck Heads, and Don't Listen to This One Either Grandma, which rounds out the album, is perhaps the highlight. The track is not your "run of the mill fisting joke," as Kaplan says. "This joke is gonna put the fist in sophisticated."
Small, Dork and Handsome tackles jazz, necrophilia, Buddhism, ham and cheese croissants, Adam and Eve, and of course, Jews. It is 68 minutes of individuality and raw funny, displaying perfectly that it is the quick jokes crammed inside the main material which sets Kaplan apart from his peers.
And of course, bringing things back to where they began, Kaplan ends the album with, "In conclusion, a joke about time travel..." But you'll have to purchase the album or watch the Netflix special for that. Small, Dork and Handsome hits the shelves (both online and traditional) today and the special is available to stream on Netflix.
Kaplan's credits outside of his stand up albums include appearances on CONAN, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, @Midnight, and FX's Louie.
To celebrate the album's release, we asked the New York-based comic to sit down with us for an interview. Thankfully, he obliged...
MStarsNews: The name of the new album is Small, Dork and Handsome. Where did it come from?
Myq Kaplan: Well, I was looking at Brad Pitt one day and thought, "I'd like to name my next album after that guy." So that's where it came from! Boy, that guy sure is a small dork.
Actually, I knew that "tall, dark, and handsome" was a phrase that existed, and I found that if I changed a minimal number of the sounds within it, it would describe me perfectly, or at least more perfectly than the original phrase. Sure, you might point out that, yes, I'm tall to children and dark to Scandinavians, but the album title Small to Children, Dark to Scandinavians, and Handsome to Everyone (Who's Attracted to Me) would have been a bit clunky.
MS: You recorded the album in your hometown of Boston at the Wilbur Theater. How did you enjoy recording in a theater as opposed to a comedy club?
MK: Well, first let me say how much I've enjoyed recording shows at comedy clubs: a lot! Now, since a theater is bigger than a comedy club, the answer must be "more than a lot!" Ah, math.
In actuality, I enjoyed the theater experience a different kind of a lot. Clubs are wonderful; they can be small and intimate. Theaters are differently wonderful because they can be large and ... theatrical? It was nice having a big space to not move around much in, but to have cameras zooming all over the place. Just like the NSA, but out in the open, recording my every move knowingly.
MS: In playing off the album title, name for me 3 of your fellow comedians who you find to be "small, dork and handsome."
The second person I'll say is Zach Sherwin, who writes and performs for Epic Rap Battles of History, has an album out on Comedy Central Records, and just performed on the Pete Holmes Show. He's a little larger than I am, but he's definitely got the other two down. I don't know enough people who are small!
Finally, we have Aparna Nancherla, who wrote for Totally Biased and has appeared on CONAN. For her, "handsome" might be the only snag, because that word is standardly used for good-looking men more than women, but in today's fight for gender egalitarianism, I say why should that keep a woman off of this very important list? It shouldn't! Aparna, you're the female equivalent of handsome, or whatever equivalent you want.
MS: I noticed that all of the track titles list three subjects within the joke. For example, Adam and Eve and Vegans. Considering the album name also goes with the theme of "3" ... why does Myq Kaplan love the number 3?
MK: If you look at my first two albums, the track listings are pretty much all two-word phrases, so my initial intent was to follow in my own footsteps on this project as well, but I guess I got ahead of myself, and there was an extra footprint in the sand the whole way. Which means I think that God was hopping next to me. (Hopefully not hopping mad. Probably not. He would have said something, I bet.)
So, when I was listening to the tracks to come up with titles, each one was so full of topics that I would have had to leave some out, were I to only use two items. So I added one. Math again! And it turned out to be a happy accident that it correlated structure-wise with the title phrase.
MS: As a comedian, what is your opinion on the whole Nick Cannon 'Whiteface' controversy?
MK: I've vaguely Googled it so of course I feel like an expert, totally qualified to respond. Additionally, I'm a white person so I know all about everything race-related. White IS all the colors put together, if we're talking about light. Are we? Hopefully I've successfully distracted from the original question you asked.
MS: One thing I love about your comedy is that you make people actually pay attention. Your wittiness creates funny within the set up as well as the punchline. Was that a conscious effort?
MK: I honestly don't know if I can say that it's a conscious effort even now. Certainly, the goal is for people to pay attention, but isn't that the case for any standup, or any other entertainment or art form, as it were? Unless it's something like background music, I believe the idea is for it to all be taken in.
I've certainly had people tell me that they've enjoyed my comedy albums even more on repeat listens, because they've heard lines and jokes and things that they might have missed the first time, which makes me feel good.
I feel that what I've been doing consciously is just to write and perform the funniest things to me, and hope that people do pay attention, if they want to.
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