The internet’s angriest man has taken his act from podcast to vinyl. Grab your handy pitchfork and get ready to hit the streets, because Lee Camp is looking to start a revolution.
Stand Up! Records, 2012
8.0 / 10.0
I’ve been a fan of Lee Camp’s online rants, called Moment of Clarity, for some time now. His anger fueled monologues about everything wrong with our political system have gotten me through more than a few dreary work days. So, when I found out he was releasing a stand-up album, I was immediately on board. I didn’t even know he did stand-up. To be fair, there was a lot I didn’t know about the multi-talented comedian/activist. He has been a contributor to The Onion and The Huffington Post. He has written his own Moment of Clarity book. Lee has been on almost every television program under the sun; including Paul Provenza’s The Green Room, Good Morning America, MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show, BBC’s Newsnite, The Daily Show (as part of their Indecision series), and even Fox News (what the hell were they thinking?). On top of all that, Lee Camp is a quite accomplished stand-up performer. He’s found time to perform at Occupy events throughout North America, the Netroots Nation conference, and most recently a handful of shows in Wisconsin to support the failed attempt at ousting Gov. Scott Walker. Lee is one busy guy. So with Pepper Spray the Tears Away, Camp’s second album, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Fortunately, what you’ll get here is pure stand-up in the same tradition of Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks. Camp is a performer with a social conscience; hoping to convert the uneducated THEN entertain the converted. In short, Lee is my kinda guy.
Before moving on to discuss the meat of the record, I think it’s important to have a short discussion about pathos. I feel like a lot of anger-driven comedians have a tendency to turn performances into off-putting showcases of their own bloated ego. In his recent biography of Joe Strummer, Let Fury Have the Hour, Antonio Ambrosio develops a sort of Id versus Superego dichotomy in describing the different approaches of Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer. As the two faces of the first wave of British punk, Rotten and Strummer were classic opposites in personality. Where Rotten was a sort of nihilistic egotist, Ambrosio argues that Strummer’s anger was fueled by an absolute faith in humanity’s ability to do better. I think that Camp’s anger comes from that same place and it saves his performance. Instead of attacking his audience with all of the stupid things they do, Camp poses his ranting with the assumption that everyone in the room wants to make it better. That sort of communal performance makes Camp a much more likable curmudgeon and keeps the comedy from ever straying too far into the realm of lecture.
In terms of the comedy itself, there is plenty of great material on Pepper Spray the Tears Away. Camp’s skewering of commercialism (“Valued Customers”) and spot-on analysis of information in the digital age (“If Darwin Were Here Today”) are not new comedic territory, but are approached in ways you probably haven’t heard before. Lee also takes to time to work plenty of silliness between his machine gun monologues, using fanciful musings about balloon animals, adult diapers, and baby oil in place of traditional transitions. Camp’s timing can feel a bit awkward in places. A key part of his approach is the unique rhythm to each rant. In short, he makes it seem like slam poetry is for pussies. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but it can make audience interaction a little awkward at times, almost as if they don’t have time to stop and laugh at mid-rant punch lines and become hesitant to laugh at the pauses Lee has built-in. That is a miniscule complaint however, as it really doesn’t make the joke any less funny.
Altogether, Lee Camp’s Pepper Spray the Tears Away is exactly the kind of comedy record everyone should check out. Even if you don’t agree with Camp’s politics (which I think you should), he has a unique voice. It’s refreshing to hear stand-up that breaks the standard mold. At times, it’s almost as if Lee listened to something from Henry Rollins’ spoken word series and said to himself, “wouldn’t it be great if that guy was funny?” Regardless, it’s good to know that no matter how bad things get, at least there is one guy in the world that is more angry about it than me. Even better, he has a microphone and he’s not afraid to use it.
“If Darwin Were Here Today”
“Evil People Have Plans”
Purchase Lee Camp’s Pepper Spray the Tears Away