COMEDIAN MARIA BAMFORD'S new album, Ask Me About My New God!, contains 33 tracks of some of the most simultaneously insightful and absurd comedy ever recorded—jokes ranging from how a Paula Deen recipe sounds like a suicide note, to what it might feel like to believe in God. The material on Ask Me About My New God! first appeared on the download-only The Special Special Special!, which was filmed live in Bamford's own living room, and performed in front of an audience of two: her parents. That show is brilliant and awkward and a tiny bit sad. The same material on her live album, which was recorded in Portland in front of a rapturous audience at Helium, is brilliant and cathartic and 100 percent hilarious. (If you're not up to speed on why Bamford is one of the best comedians alive, an afternoon spent watching her YouTube specials Ask My Mom! and The Maria Bamford Show should clear up any confusion.)
In honor of Bamford's return to Helium on Wednesday, September 11, we listened to a few other comedy albums recently recorded in Portland.
Kurt Braunohler, How Do I Land?
Kurt Braunohler launched his album How Do I Land? with one of the most brilliant PR stunts of all time: He raised $4,000 on Kickstarter to hire a skywriter to emblazon the album's title across the sky. The first comedy album released by local indie label Kill Rock Stars, How Do I Land? was recorded live at Mississippi Studios on Valentine's Day. (I was there; it was romantic.) Braunohler is a towering redhead with glasses and a perpetual air of being up to something; he claims his "purpose as a comedian is to insert stupidity or absurdity into strangers' lives." As such, his jokes often revolve around pranks, jokes, and other disruptions to the status quo, like a bit about fucking with strangers by adding fake facts to animals' Wikipedia pages, e.g., "a single everything bagel started the Great Squirrel/Pigeon War of 1982." Kurt Braunohler's album is available through killrockstars.com.
Nathan Brannon, I Black Out
Nathan Brannon is a Portland comic who was christened 2012's Funniest Person at that summer's Helium Comedy Club contest, and he subsequently recorded a comedy album at the Funhouse Lounge. Available on iTunes and CD Baby, it's a polished affair recorded in front of an enthusiastic Portland audience; Brannon's laidback delivery translates confidently to the live recording, and his material is grounded in personal observations about his life, his family, and bear hunting with his father-in-law. Find upcoming performances at nathanbrannon.com, and purchase his album at cdbaby.com/cd/nathanbrannon2.
Xander Deveaux, Obsessive Repulsive
Xander Deveaux founded the Bar of the Gods showcase Funny Humans! before leaving town to seek treatment for bulimia (a disease about which he has several funny-because-they're-true bits). His live album isn't particularly polished—he's easily distracted by the enthusiastic crowd at the Hawthorne Hideaway—but he's got natural charisma and some great, personal material about being a "straight-seeming" gay man and how Ben and Jerry's ice cream is his favorite thing to throw up. Performing at Funny Humans 30: The Return of Xander at Bar of the Gods, 4801 SE Hawthorne, Mon Sept 16, 9:30 pm, free. His CD is available at cdbaby.com/xanderdeveaux.