During the second track of his debut comedy album, Day Drinker, Portland comedian Ian Stuart says, “it’s just gonna get dumber from here.” While he plays up his “dumb stoner” persona, his jokes give him away: He’s not dumb. Yes, Stuart’s humor certainly appeals to a specific demographic (i.e. stoned suburban college dudes), but he’s careful not to let the “stoner comedy” gag feel tired. He covers all the bases: Roommates, weed, pussy, roofies, self-deprecation, and ’90s scrambled porn. But it’s the delivery and the originality of the jokes that set him apart from your standard “so I got high…” fare.
Stuart’s website describes his humor as “darkly charming stoner comedy.” This rings true, particularly in his Afghan Divorce Court joke, where he compares an especially potent strand of weed to Afghan Divorce Court: it will get you stoned like an unfaithful Middle Eastern woman. While the joke is met with disapproving “oohs” from the audience (there’s that darkness), Ian dodges an apology, though acknowledges the possible offense by admitting “that was a harsh one,” in a tone that conveys a knowing smirk (and there’s that charm).
Ian definitely likes to push the audience’s limits (murder in the Mideast, anyone?) but he almost always gets away with it. Starting one joke with “so I’ve been digging the KKK lately…” he successfully keeps the audience halfway between pissed off and intrigued, relying on that aww, I’m only kiddin’ charm to ward off actual offense at the punchline. He even uses this technique in his audience interaction, a skill in which he’s particularly well-versed. After making a dark joke about dating high schoolers, he asks one group of (what I presume to be older) audience members, “Are you guys gonna scold me after this?” His manner is reminscent of Eddie Haskell, except Ian isn’t insincere. I doubt he got any such scolding.
As evidenced by the oft-laughing older crowd audible on this album, his charisma and smarter-than-your-average stoner material is able to reach outside of his targeted college audience. Not every joke is laugh-out-loud funny, but this is Ian’s first comedy album and half the fun is hearing his on-the-fly audience interaction. And the material itself has some really hilarious moments; Designated Drunk Chick has a fantastic punchline, and his herpes joke is especially funny in the trailed off delivery.
All in all, a promising debut comedy album and I look forward to a follow-up.
To celebrate the release of Day Drinker, head to Empire Dine and Dance in Portland this Saturday, October 13th at 9:30pm. Several Maine comics will be in tow: George Hamm, Brian Brinegar, Paul Hunt, Joe Timmins, and of course, the Day Drinker himself, Ian Stuart. Music provided by Grammy-nominated song writer John Stuart. Tickets are $8.