What do sitcom writers do on their day off? Work on their own material, be it humorous essays or stories. Occasionally they get a chance to perform this material live in from of an audience. Play The Word, Volume 1 is a live recording of such an evening.

“Something Extremely Important” is a fun little story by Merril Markoe (Late Night With David Letterman) about a friend going to a personal crisis and a dog intent on getting that friend involved in a game of fetch. It works best once Markoe gets to the point of the story which is seeing this moment through the dog’s point of view. The little message at the end could have been handled with more subtlety.

“Attractive in a Bad Way” is a humorous girlfriends from hell tale. Rob Cohen (The Simpsons, The Ben Stiller Show) has terrible luck with women and shares his experiences. It is an entertaining, sometimes funny story that polished and told by a professional would work better as a stand-up comic’s set.

The importance and hedonist value of sleep is what interests Julie Rottenberg (Sex & The City) in her essay / story “To Sleep, Perchance to Sleep Some More”. It is entertaining and well told considering she is not a professional performer. It is one of the two most polished and ready for public performance tales on this independent release CD of funny stories and essays.

Less successful is “The Day I Got Caught Playing With Myself in Hebrew School” as told by Alan Zweibel (It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Saturday Night Live). Basically, an eleven year old gets a crush on Sarah, Abraham’s wife and reacts accordingly. The problem is Zweibel, for some unfathomable reason, insists on giving the exact biblical reference to the passages that … interest him and this very much takes away from the beat of the story. The ending feels rushed, as if someone was flashing the red light at him.

Host and organizer of the event Beth Lapides tells the story of her first experiences after moving to L.A. It features an interesting cast of characters including a poet into serious S&M and fairly funny anecdotes and observations that, in the end, do not really pay off. The French call this a nouvelle and a nouvelle isn’t really a short story.

The strongest, relatively speaking, humorous essay / story on this funny CD is by Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life). “Good Hair” is the story of a Jewish woman who finally has the money and courage to realize her life long dream of getting her hair straightened. References and observations about Barbara Streisand’s various hair incarnations and moments add humor to this tale while parallels to what Black women go through add some relevance. It is entertaining and well told.

“Desperate Flapper” is a performance poem by George Meyer (The Simpsons). Never having been a fan of poetry readings and the kind of poems poets seem to always choose for public performance, a fair comment on this would be impossible.

Un-Cabaret Play the Word is an excellent concept: get writers who work on various comedy shows to share their own material and perform it in from of an audience. Unfortunately, it is not given all the attention and care it should have received. This would be a much better comedy CD if the essays and stories had been polished a bit more and the readers had worked a bit on their delivery. What could have been a great almost comedy and funnier CD is just a bit better than what you can get at a reading at your local college.

Play the Word
Volume 1
stand-up comedy CD
Independent Release

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