For the hardcore stand-up comedy fan, Doug Benson’s new double album called “Smug Life” is an interesting experiment. Anyone reading this review knows that Benson is the reigning king of pot smokers. For this experiment, the first disc is a one-hour show performed “uncooked” -- meaning, Benson does not smoke anything all day before the show. The second disc is essentially the same show performed “cooked” -- here, in between shows, Benson tries to get as high as humanly possible. If you are a serious comedy fan, it is fascinating to see how the shows differ. 26-track comedy mp3 album at Amazon
Unfortunately, for the more casual fan, the second disc will be far less interesting. By design, much of the material is duplicative. Unless you have an innate interest in the underlying experiment, you will find less value in the second disc after having listened to the first.
Another downside is the exposure of the fact that much of the seemingly ad-libbed material is not actually ad-libbed. Again, most hard core stand-up fans know that virtually every word that comes out of a comic’s mouth, including the seemingly off-the-cuff remarks, is carefully constructed and honed to perfection before they record an album. However, this can be disconcerting to some. When listening to the first disc, Benson’s set seems to be filled with hilarious ad-libs. Then, you pop in the second disc, and quickly learn that many such comments were scripted and planned.
As for the experiment, the second “cooked” disc is much funnier. In fact, one of the funniest lines on the second disc is when Benson acknowledges, very early on in the set, that the second disc is funnier, and that the first disc should be blank with nothing but a message to go listen to the second disc.
As for the actual content, if you’re a fan of Benson, you will enjoy this album, and it’s definitely something you should pick up. If you’re not already a fan of Benson, you will still enjoy this album, but you would be better suited buying a different Benson album as your “introduction” to his comedy. In fact, pretty much any of Benson’s previous four releases are of higher overall quality -- laugh for laugh.
I particularly enjoyed the bit Benson begins by stating that the audience is going to get “bummed out” by the joke, and then proceeds to tell a joke that involves running over a dog in his car. He then asks if the audience would be less “bummed” if it was a cat … or a goldfish. The set then includes several callbacks to the goldfish, all of which work really well.
Finally, as one final point of criticism, one of Benson’s “signature” bits has become one where he essentially pulls out his smart phone and reads Tweets that he has written, or that others have sent to him. He did this on the Benson Interruption (the Comedy Central show he hosted where he would introduce comics and then, during their sets, interrupt them with his own commentary), and he has also done this bit on his other albums. I do not want to be too harsh in this criticism, because it always has been and continues to be funny, but it is getting a little stale at this point. On Smug Life, he opens and closes both sets with reading Tweets.
All in all, this is a good album for the casual stand-up and/or Benson fan, and an even better album for hardcore stand-up and/or Benson fans.
Other Doug Benson Reviews
Unbalanced Load: Title says it all
Hypocritical Oaf - CD / DVD set: Pretty good, better if you lioke 420 comedy
Potty Mouth CD and DVD set: a very funny stand-up comedy CD
Gateway Doug: If you’re already a Benson fan, you will love it. If you’re not already a Benson fan, you may not even like it
Gateway Doug 2: Forced Fun: So, if you are already a Benson fan, go ahead and pick this up. You will anyway, regardless of what I say in this review. If you are not already a fan of Benson, picking any of his prior six albums would be a much, much better choice.