The comedy album is an under appreciated labour of love. A comedian’s body of work is ever evolving. Each performance has a set of variables that ensures no two performances are exactly alike. Not unlike their musical counterparts comedy albums require a lot of life to be lived and distilled in order to write one. Unlike their musical counterparts they are always recorded live.
2019 was a particularly crucial year for the comedy album in Canada when in February. Sirius XM Canada re-branded it’s Canadian comedy station Canada Laughs to Just for Laughs radio and with it came the announcement that only the Just for laughs back catalogue comprises almost entirely of sets recorded at the galas from the world’s largest comedy festival would played on the station effectively killing the steady royalty cheques comedians received from having albums in circulation. This happened weeks away from when The Just for Laughs festival was set to begin showcasing. Armed with this information. The Canadian Association of standup comedians threatened to start boycotting showcases. It never got to that point Just for Laughs and SiriusXM Canada reversed their decision and released a statement that channel 168 would play entirely Canadian independent content. As a nice bonus, they also agreed to absorb the submission fee for albums to be considered for Canadian musical awards: The Junos. Comedians seized the opportunity to release their material on the international platform and what followed was a multitude of dynamic releases.
Brittany Lyseng “Going Up” released on West Canadian label Comedy Here Often is named for her former career as an elevator mechanic. Going Up is a solid collection of material from this Calgary comic who’s unassuming persona paired with blue collar mischief makes the candid tone super conversational, upbeat, hardworking and positive much like Lyseng herself.
Perfect listen for: Your break at work.
Nigel Grinstead “Unplucked” Grinstead is known in Canada for being an absolute killer with awards and festival appearances to match. It was difficult to believe he has not released an album sooner, but well worth the Wait. Unplucked embodies some of the strongest material he had amassed over his career. A road dog and raconteur Unplucked shows Grindstead is truly in it for the long haul.
Perfect listening for: Road Trip
Jarret Campbell “Straight White Fail.” Campbell finished off a huge year with a large milestone: his debut comedy album. This gruff good ol’ boy has an unexpected and welcome endearing edge to this album released on Tyler Morrison’s emerging Cottage Country comedy label . Straight White Fail is an examination of where Campbell been in life, how it will shape where he’s going and maybe how we all think and laugh about a few things too.
Perfect listening for : Beers in the Bush
Sophie Buddle “Lil Bit of Buddle” Summer was the perfect time for this album to be released. When interviewed for a profile in The Interrobang in June, Buddle said her album was of special importance because the material was going to be, for the most part, retired. The album was not written as a cohesive hour but rather an organic of bundle of her first 10 years in stand up. Chill and skilled, A Lil Bit of Buddle includes a dedication to Buddle’s mother that shines through the speakers. A fitting send off to a phase of a career. No spoilers but 2020 is sure to usher in a new one.
Perfect listening for: You and your quirkiest friends newest obsession
Jackie Pirico “Dream Phone” 2019 has been good to Jackie Pirico. She was selected to be the digital host at this year’s Just for laughs festival and Andy Kindler said she is a talent to watch after an electric performance on The Alt show at JFL42. The highly imaginative debut from Toronto’s pint sized alt comedy dynamo delivers huge laughs and solidifies Pirico’s satirical romanticized early 90’s aesthetic. Jackie loves her cat, making up words, and using those words using to build a sweet and strange narrative that’s only just getting started.
Perfect listening for: Telling your cat about your crush.
Todd Graham: “Bustin Loose” Todd Graham is a strange performer. His new album is very good, replete with dry jokes that you do not see coming. His delivery is placid and contemplative, the sort of character-esque Alternative comedy that can sometimes be difficult to translate to audio. But Graham’s ability to do so on this Comedy Records release is a testament to its strength.
Perfect listening: For getting weird.
Matt Wright: “Existing is Exhausting” . Wright is one of Canada’s most distinct headliners and this album is a clear indicator why. Existing is Exhausting is a polished and witty collection of material that spans a wide range of relatable topics. Wright is the refreshing continuation of comedy from Newfoundland but gives every punchline about his provincial identity a wide birth.
Perfect listening for: A Hike by the water where no one’s around to hear you laugh too loud.
Steph Tolev: “I’m not Well” Steph Tolev is a fast rising star in the comedy world and released Deb n’ Step this year on Comedy Central Digital. Tolev is also included in Bill Burr’s new Comedy Central series promoting up and comic comics. Her album I’m Not Well has an unflinching confidence. The album is ferocious and calls out idiocracy by going places where the polite are not welcome.
Perfect listening for : Get this Album on Vinyl and tell you tindr dates you knew about Steph before she was a thing.
Martha Chavez: “Chunky Salsa” There is no mistaking Martha Chavez! She has one of the quickest wits in the game. This Nicaraguan transplant to the Canadian scene has raw star power. Her album Chunky Salsa, released on Howl and Roar, records the bold brain child of Sirius XM personality Allison Dore is a super well crafted offering that takes hilarious aim at life’s many questions. Sly playful and perfectly punctuated it’s the type of album that feels so delightfully truthful it could be a sitcom pilot.
Perfectly listening: For those moments when Ketchup just won’t do.
Natalie Norman: “The Big Reveal” . Also released on Howl and Roar The Big Reveal was a fitting title because it was one of the most anticipated albums of the year mostly because no one was sure of what jokes Norman would select. The longtime co-host and producer of the feminist space room The Crimson Wave, Norman has logged a lot of stage time with the bits to match. The Big Reveal is deeply personal, introspective, cunning, joyful, fearful and has this transportive quality that makes it feel like an album way before its time.Norman is part of an emerging generation of feminist comics influenced by long tradition of Brazen Jewish female truth tellers. This album is exciting and will surely be part of the conversation when the Juno nominations are announced Jan 28th.
Perfect listening for : Eating Cake and being over everyone’s issues.
Kyle Brownrigg: “Unmedicated: The New Fragrance”. Kyle Brownrigg had the type of year that was many in the making. He appeared at The Just for Laughs festival in 2018 and in 2019 won a Canadian Comedy award and released this album. Kyle never holds anything back and we are all the better for it. In this album, Brownrigg takes aim at friend foe and stranger. The most distinctive thing about Unmedicated is Brownrigg’s weapon of choice: timing. It’s precise, sharp and not a moment of this record Is taken up unintentionally. that makes it clear Brownrigg doesn’t care what you think of him but probably has more than a few things to say about you. If people are not thinking of Kyle Brownrigg come Juno time they should be.