For a hardened stand-up comedy fanboy like myself, the label of 'storytelling/comedy album' can be like a dead canary in a coal mine. Don't get me wrong – I love storytelling. The act of storytelling is a sadly underrated skill, and one very much worthy of an hour-long audio recording. But I suppose the elephant in the room is that storytelling comedians are generally considered less funny than conventional comics. Regardless of this misconception, Adam Wade's The Human Comedy is a irreverent and endearing portrait of the artist as beautifully self-deprecating.
Wade is a talented and very funny storyteller, but the incredibly specific qualifications of stand-up comedy perhaps allude him. His album consists of six extended stories, all of which contain big laughs. However, four of those tales do not build to a climatic comedic punchline. Indeed, comedy fans going in expecting traditional nightclub material may be disappointed.
With a voice like Peter Griffin and a heart the size of New Jersey worn gallantly on his sleeve, Wade walks the audience through his fractured and painful life. He opens with a story that despite the laughs it generates, may seem better suited for something like The Moth Podcast, upon which he's appeared.
The tale follows Wade on his failed attempt to court a former co-worker, a waitress named Susie. Admittedly, it doesn't build to a comedic payoff, and thus, the quality of the story is somewhat irrelevant on a stand-up comedy album. If Susie's story had ended with even a small joke, I would have forgiven all of Wade's open-hearted sentimentality.
The jarring difference can be noted when juxtaposing Susie's story with the adventures of Freddy the bus driver, which ends just as poignantly, yet climaxes with a solid and thoughtful laugh.
Why not end every story with a laugh? Is Wade worried that a carelessly placed joke will spoil the emotional truth? If so, he's a smart storyteller with an original voice, but he may not be a comedian at all.
Vulnerability is a tough trait to make work in stand-up comedy. You want to get consistent laughs from the audience, not consistent sympathetic groans. Wade's reflections are coming-of-age stories. An early diversion involving his attempt to join the high school marching band stands out as a strong and smart opener. Without a doubt, Wade is a captivating storyteller.
There are many art forms which condone storytelling, sympathetic groans, and stellar jokes. One such art form can be found at the cinema. As I listened to The Human Comedy, I was simultaneously picturing a film in my mind, not dissimilar from Mike Birbiglia's heartfelt Sleepwalk With Me. I would unquestionably pay to watch an Adam Wade movie.
After hearing The Human Comedy, I feel as if I not only know Adam Wade, but genuinely like him. That is the highest compliment any comedy fan can offer.
Tony Hinds is a Canadian writer who studied film at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to ShowbizMonkeys.com, Tony has reviewed films for Step On Magazine and The Uniter. You can find Tony on Twitter.