As the catalog of comedy albums expands every Tuesday, the traditional format of the one-hour live stand-up show as an album fades away– to the delight of comedy fans and nerds everywhere (or at least this reviewer). Though there’s been a handful of non-traditional comedy albums released the past few years, you can find a great one in Jay Larson’s Self-Diagnosed (A Special Thing Records). Along with eroding the accepted format of what a comedy CD should be, Larson gives a great display of his mischievous likeability on every track.
In crafting Self-Diagnosed, Larson considers his album in its entirety by interspersing hilarious sketches that actually reference the bits they precede. Preemptively satisfying the imagination of listeners, these sketches give his jokes and stories even more absurdly fun color and depth than they already have. On “Annoying Kids, Cute Baby” Jay, at one point, talks about the more positive uses of baby limbs, then goes into a sketch that involves a friend’s baby, jelly and licking. An added bonus to the sketches on Self-Diagnosed are the voice cameos of comedians Pete Holmes, Nick Thune, and America’s Got Talent finalist Melissa Villasenor.
During the live portions of the album, Larson showcases his deceptively easy-going delivery and hilarious attention to detail that has made him a favorite of almost anyone who sees him. The track “1755,” like many others on the album, spans multiple topics; this one hits on the concept of coming up with the perfect comeback, feeding ducks, and enjoying the unforeseen pleasures of everyday outdoor activities.
Considering this is an album — where usually nothing but planned material exists — we have to commend Larson for the amount of crowd work in which he engages; and he does so with expert ability. In total, Larson’s Self-Diagnosed stays consistently funny while pushing the form. We’re hoping to see a lot more albums like this one.