Not that many people over 30 would give a shit, but the indie-comedy world—which basically runs parallel to the indie-rock world and encompasses The Onion and lots of smart young people who perform improv or write for Conan O’Brien and SNL—hasn’t produced a great stand-up album since Bill Hicks trained his “comedy of hate” on Reagan-era politics. David Cross’s Shut Up You Fucking Baby ain’t exactly said world’s Slanted and Enchanted, but it’s probably the closest thing yet, a two-hour tour de force full of expert impressions and improvised disses of Hollywood, infomercials, John Ashcroft, and people who misuse the word “literally.”
Cross, who rose to something less than fame on the excellent HBO sketch series Mr. Show, delivers spot-on critiques even when his targets are too easy, but what really makes everything work is acuity of detail and strength of performance. Though great one-liners abound (9-11 is summed up as “the week that football stopped”), the big laughs usually involve character acting or one of Cross’s thousand or so voices—whether he’s staging a dialogue between a campaigning George W. and a redneck who trades his vote for the $300 he’ll get in tax cuts, or imitating a lisping, gas-mask-clad rollerblader he saw storming down a deserted Houston Street on September 12.
Cross’s off-the-cuff approach makes for some rambling and dull stuff, but his frequent asides carry plenty of guffaws, as on a 15-plus-minute tale of a bad tour stop in Kansas City, wherein he sends up morning show DJs, gets smashed with the goth-rocking women in Harlow, then becomes hilariously convinced he’s losing his sanity when his hotel wake-up call goes awry. All of which make Shut Up the rare comedy album that’s worth listening to even when you can already quote the punchlines.