Album review: Myq Kaplan’s “A.K.A.” is compassionate, confounding stand-up

Justin RemerAlbum Review, Comedy, ReviewsLeave a Comment

myq kaplan a.k.a.

Myq Kaplan’s newest album of wordy, nerdy stand-up comedy is out today.

As he readily admits in his stand-up, Myq Kaplan (it’s pronounced “Mike”) can be an acquired taste. At one point in his new album, A.K.A., he refers to himself as the “kombucha of comedy.”

His wit is quick, his patter is quicker, and the connections he makes between topics can be so layered and tangential that listeners might feel like they need to take notes to keep things straight. Even for this long-time fan of Myq’s comedy albums, A.K.A. started off as an exasperating listen. (Don’t worry, it didn’t finish that way.)

I realize that intro sounds more like a warning than a recommendation, but take it as encouragement. If you can meet Myq Kaplan on his wavelength, the light speed-paced journey is worth it.

A.K.A. was originally a show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, titled All Killing Aside. While not focused solely on violence, the hour has a general overarching theme of moving past the things that drive us apart and searching for those things that bring us together.

Myq does address murder directly at one point, suggesting that there are generally two kinds of people: those who murder and those who get murdered. Myq says he is definitely a “get murdered” person. In fact, if everyone decided to be “get murdered” people, there would be peace. As long as everyone agrees and nobody cheats and becomes a “murder” person.

Myq talks about finding an unexpected connection with an Alabama football fan who randomly shouted “Roll Tide!” at one of his shows. He talks about letting go of petty hatreds. Why fill up with hate for the band Nickelback, when statistically most music is not Nickelback? Just listen to something you like. He even uses Joseph Gordon Levitt as an example. If you like JGL, just think about him and continue to enjoy him. No one can take that enjoyment away: you get to keep it.

The Joseph Gordon Levitt vehicle Inception actually comes up multiple times throughout A.K.A. This is appropriate, due to the way that Myq spins off from the topics of his jokes into multiple other connected topics before rejoining the original joke to finally deliver his point. (Actually, rather than the dream-within-a-dream comparison, I like to think of Myq’s approach as being like someone who is doing a web search. Myq keeps opening new tabs in his mental browser that he has to eventually close to get back to his original search.)

At one point, he even coyly mocks this process by saying he will do a joke that is not “political, personal, or philosophical, like…” before proceeding to explore all three of these topical veins. He then doubles back to deliver his “intended” apolitical, impersonal, philosophy-free joke.

While the show has an overall theme, there are plenty of joyful and goofy diversions. Myq is a big fan of wordplay, and he spends more time than anyone else logically would on the word “gnocchi.” Just because it’s silly and fun to say.

As I hinted at in my intro, I initially found A.K.A. a little too much to process on first listen. But now I’ve listened to it several times, and have been surprised into laughing again and again. I think, because of the multi-layered complexity of its joke-telling and the sneaky consistency of its overall structure, this is a comedy album that will stay with you long after hearing it.

The album A.K.A. by Myq Kaplan is now available to stream or download on all major services.

More Pop Culture Beast – Comedy:

*Myq Kaplan thinks bathrooms can unite us
*Josh Gondelman’s Dancing on a Weeknight is cuddly and joyful
*Jeff Simmermon spins funny yarns on And I Am Not Lying
*Maria Bamford goes full Detroit on 20%

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Justin RemerAlbum review: Myq Kaplan’s “A.K.A.” is compassionate, confounding stand-up