Eddie Pepitone, the Bitter Buddha, assesses America in the “end times”
“WE HAVE TO GET IN THE STREETS AND FUCKING FIGHT! … Now I’m not going to be able to join you, because I’m in the middle of Ozark.”
Eddie Pepitone‘s newest hour of stand-up comedy, For the Masses, was obviously recorded before the current pandemic and social uprising that America is witnessing. However, as the excerpted joke above makes clear, Pepitone captures the spirit of the times without the benefit of a crystal ball.
Pepitone, who was the subject of the 2013 documentary The Bitter Buddha, is one of comedy’s great neurotic curmudgeons. Looking schlumpy even in a relatively dapper ensemble of black jacket and slacks, Pepitone bellows most of his bits like he’s trying to proselytize from a public park soapbox. The image of Pepitone as ragged street corner barker is further cemented by his frequent assertions, much like fellow neurotic curmudgeon Marc Maron, that we are in the “end times.”
“WE’RE IN END TIMES!” he shouts, before dropping down to a self-consciously silky coo: “Other generations have said that. But we really are.” Then Pepitone smiles a smarmy TV pitchman smile.
The stark contrast in delivery seems to highlight the hour’s theme. In a nutshell: It’s not weird that I’m screaming; the world is falling apart, so why aren’t you screaming? “These sets are cries for help!” Pepitone exclaims later.
But, even with his material’s relevance to the current political climate, it’s not quite right to peg Eddie Pepitone as a political comic. It’s more like he’s a thinker who can’t shut his brain off. Quite often he will start a bit, cut himself off with three tangents, and then return to a set-up. The quote at the top about taking to the streets actually comes in middle of a chunk about marriage. I would honestly have to re-watch the special to trace Pepitone’s train of thought from the first topic to the second.
His mind wanders through rants on porn, atheism, Alzheimer’s, rescue dogs, murder as entertainment, the danger of Waze, and why Trump should dress like the Joker. Sometimes his mind ping-pongs around so much that it’s hard to stay on the same page as Pepitone, but he’s never boring.
The closing bit hilariously encapsulates Pepitone’s point-of-view. He imagines auditioning for a Downy fabric softener commercial. Rather than just read the copy with a plastic smile, Pepitone’s character keeps going off-script with unhelpful details, like his tendency to beat off to hockey fights or the shady history of Downy’s parent company, Dow Chemical. The scripted line of “How do you get these shirts so fresh?” rings hollows, and Pepitone eventually demands of his imaginary TV wife, “Why are you burying your head in laundry when the whole world is fucking collapsing!?”
If modern life gets you irrationally angry, then For the Masses might be… for you.
The Eddie Pepitone stand-up special For the Masses is currently available for pre-order as an album.
The video and album versions will both be available for streaming and download on Tuesday, June 23.
More Pop Culture Beast – Comedy:
*Myq Kaplan’s A.K.A. is compassionate, confounding stand-up
*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%
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.