Doug Benson has developed an impressive career as the most stoned snarky comedian on VH1′s payroll. Smug Life is his fifth stand-up record and I hate to say that it just doesn’t seem like he’s trying very hard.
Comedy Central Records, 2012
5.2 / 10.0
Doug Benson first made himself known on a national level as one of those guys on VH1 that would talk about stuff that happened. You know, ‘Someone did something and I’ve got a thing to say about it.’ The complete inundation of those shows helped boost a few comedic careers, mostly now into the world of podcasting. Such was the case with Doug Benson. Though he has made several comedic documentaries, successfully tours as a stand-up, and has released several stand-up albums, Benson is probably best known for his successful podcasts; Doug Loves Movies and The Benson Interruption. Being a fan of both of those shows, I was excited to find out Benson was releasing a new stand up record. Smug Life, Benson’s fifth album, doesn’t find Benson’s material too far removed from what you would hear on Doug Loves Movies. Somehow, what I love about that show becomes disappointing in this slightly different format.
Doug Benson comes across as a guy that is really funny, regardless of structure. On his shows, this works really well as he reacts to audience members and guests alike. As a stand-up performance however, it just seems like he doesn’t really give a fuck. The gimmick behind Smug Life is related to Doug’s favorite topic, getting stoned. Here, Benson records a set sober (“Uncooked”) and then the same set again while stoned (“Cooked”). As a document, it’s an interesting concept. Unfortunately, it seems like Benson was more married to the concept than he was to the material. There is a spot of the show where is just reads tweets from people at the show. That’s what we’re talking about. It makes for an amusing moment, but I wonder if this necessitated a two-disc release. My favorite stand-up records are the ones you can listen to over and over again, versus a free podcast that is entertaining in the moment, but you don’t mind deleting after the first listen. Benson’s material on Smug Life is a lot closer to the latter and doesn’t particularly hold up for multiple listens (particularly when all of the jokes are told twice).
As to the stoned/not stoned ‘experiment’, well, there really isn’t much to say about it. I guess there is a little less anger in Doug’s “Bumbershoot” story when he’s high? I can’t help but think the experiment isn’t really worth the resources used to make the record. As a performance, Smug Life would have worked a lot better as two $1.99 podcasts than as a $12 album. I think this is mostly an issue of format. As an entertainer, Doug Benson is simply better suited for those off-the-cuff interactions than an album format. I would absolutely recommend listening to Benson’s podcasts or paying to see him live, but I just can’t recommend spending your dollars on this album that you probably won’t hear more than once (or at least you probably won’t enjoy more than once). Instead, got find Patton Oswalt or Lee Camp’s last records. Leave Doug for the actual live experience.
Purchase Doug Benson’s Smug Life.