• Various Artists: Invite Them Up

    Invite Them UpJudging from the colossal comic lineup, everyone listening to Invite Them Up should keep an EKG machine and home defibrillator nearby to monitor and restart their hearts after having subjected themselves to more than three hours of convulsion-inducing hilarity.

    Luckily, though, no one hearing the three CDs or watching the companion DVD is in much danger of dying — mainly because the series of live shows, recorded at Pianos in New York City from May 1 through May 3, 2005, lacks a “killer” set. Many jokes explode on impact, detonating laughter. But too many duds fizzle like wet firecrackers, a shock considering the team of talent (including Craig Baldo, Todd Barry, Mike Birbiglia, David Cross, Jessi Klein, Demetri Martin, hosts Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale and about 20 other top-notch comedians.

    Much of the compilation sounds as if Tisdale, the supersonically sarcastic emcee, invites each performer to his humor lab to test promising premises or experiment onstage with raw material that needs plenty of refinement. And that’s exactly the premise behind the weekly show at New York City’s East Village club, Rififi, in which this collection derives. While it surely works in that setting, four discs worth of it may be a bit too much.

    Jeremiah Smallchild and Gideon Lamb, an amusing pair of “Christian rockers,” deliver the most seditious messages and performance of all. The masterminds behind God’s Pottery sound equally unctuous and pious until the singing begins. It’s then that the choirboys turn into bad boys on two inventive songs: “The Pants Come Off When the Ring Goes on,” and “Jesus, I Need a Drink.” The first song, a parody paean to virtue and the twin sins of promiscuity and premarital sex, jabs Bible thumpers. Then, their irreverent “drinking song” exhorts the congregation to “get crazy drunk on Christ!”

    Tom McCaffrey also stands out with his diatribe against dismissive whiners who wouldn’t want to even visit New York City, let alone live there. Lamentably, he nearly stomps a good joke by stepping on the punchline.

    Jon Benjamin and Cross take the usually inflexible topic of abortion, twist it, then stretch it into a long chunk of seemingly ad-libbed and imaginative comedy that may make even the most serious pro-lifer laugh.

    John Delery

    John Delery has written thousands of articles and millions of words in his career, and still he has professional goals: He wants "Be honest with me, Doc: Will I ever tweet again?" to someday supplant "Take my wife...please" as the Great American punch line.

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