by Helen Grant
Over the past couple of weeks OKC.NET has written or shared news about upcoming comedy shows playing in the OKC metro, with some version of “laughter is good for the soul” attached to links shared on our social media. I’m not always good at following my own advice, but even as I stress out about money and a great many other things, I was happy to have James’ new comedy album to review. Finally this was my chance to get a few good laughs!
Full disclosure: OKC.NET and James Nghiem have working history. Generally it’s hard being an indie anything, because you’re constantly broke and trying to come up with scratch to keep your project running. Therefore collaboration with other indie outlets is vital. Even so Robot Saves City, Nghiem’s comedy label, is chocked full of talent. Talent that we have mined over the past years by having comedians on their roster write for us. And through our mutual give and take, I’ve watched those people get further and further along in the comedy careers.
Before ever joining OKC.NET, I watched James Nghiem do standup as the opening act for an OKC Improv show a few years ago. I was transported back to that night when I heard “That Lonely Beast’s” opening track “Street Cred.” Only this time around Nghiem is headlining the show and you feel like you’ve just been dropped into a nightclub. From the start, he owns up to being awkward, broke, getting older, and how that has lead him into some ridiculous situations. “Street Cred” really sets the tone for all that you will hear on “That Lonely Beast.”
As the stories seamlessly transitioned from one absurd situation to the next, I realized that I hadn’t watched James’ standup in awhile, but his gift for storytelling seems to have gotten tighter. Another track that stood out was “Supernatural.” It explores what it takes to shop around for a psychic, even going so far as to find a magician to one up a lover in a mystical race to conceal evidence of wrongdoing, while “Bacardi Time” explores job hunting, drinking, children, and some not quite solid parenting skills. “G.I.L.F.” carries some hilarious internal dialogue that navigates the boundaries of age, Ritz Peanut Butter Crackers, racial relations, and Leprechauns. But by far my favorite track on this album is “Suicide.” James said his friends frequently challenge his commitment to find the good in everything and so they find news articles to try and shake his optimistic resolve. This joke is killer and it is the perfect note with which to end a short, but humorously fulfilling album. My only critique is that he needn’t have bothered with the three free bonus tracks. They’re good jokes, and I can see why he included them, but they feel unnecessary in juxtaposition with the rest of the material on “That Lonely Beast.”
As for the inspiration to title the album as he did, James said, “Socrates said ‘He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.’ To me, they could be a comic too. That’s how it feels some nights.”
It’s worth noting that Nghiem’s spent a good six years performing standup across the state. Some of that time was spent bringing his own amp or chairs to shows, setting up, pulling off a good show only to pack it all up to do it all over again the next night. He said that process can be very isolating.
If you want to hear these jokes live, you should catch James Nghiem at the Opolis this Thursday Oct 17th. Doors open at 8, show starts at 9. Other comics performing that night are: Justin Smith, Cameron Buchholtz, Ryan Drake, Josh Lathe, and Jeramy Westbrook. It’s a $5 cover. So if you’ve been feeling cantankerous and beastly, you might consider $5 a great investment for good laughs.
Are there other details you should know about the Opolis show coming up?
The October 17th release show at Opolis in Norman is part of a string of comedy shows presented by Fowler Volkswagen.
James said, “Fowler has been instrumental in bringing national acts to the state over the past few years. Doug Benson, Marc Maron, Maria Bamford. The list keeps going. I’m just excited they’re letting me headline this local showcase and showcasing this chunk of material that I’ve been developing for a while.”