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Earles & Jensen - Just Farr A Laugh Vol. 1 & 2: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever!

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Artist: Earles & Jensen

Album: Just Farr A Laugh Vol. 1 & 2: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever!

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 8, 2008

Bleachy is African-American, 4'10”, 250 lbs, and eats two Big Bufords a day. He has a lispy voice that David Cross would refer to as "that gay voice,” and it would be hard to rule out some degree of mental retardation. Or at least that's what Earles & Jensen suggest on their re-issued Just Farr A Laugh crank call albums (there are two volumes, featuring many of the same characters). Bleachy is effing hilarious, and if there’s a humor rift in this country, it would be between elitists, like myself, who consider this shit gold, and, well, anyone who doesn't get it. Unelitists. Unelitists don't want to hear Morris Day impressions, either because they don't like Morris Day, or they don't like people making fun of Morris Day. Unelitists are a multifaceted people, including the dumb, the ignorant, the racist, the backward, the uptight, and the politically correct.

As the Jerky Boys had done before them, humorists/writers Jeffrey Jones Jensen and Andrew Scott Earles cling to comedy's lowest common denominator, the prank phone call. Just like the Jerky Boys (and their characters, including Jimb, Frank Rizzo, Khaled, and Sol Rosenberg), Earles and Jensen pick most of their marks randomly, finding them through classified ads, and sometimes target their own friends. Similarly, their language is often vulgar but rarely hurtful. Most importantly, however, these calls only work if you feel some degree of understanding, as opposed to antipathy, for others, particularly black people, gay people, and black gay people (or pop culture surrogates like Morris Day and RuPaul). Washed up musicians like Christopher Cross get their due as well. Some of these caricatures are funny because we know how exaggerated they are. We worry about those who would laugh because they believe these characters are accurately portrayed. I believe these characters would laugh at themselves, the same way if you were to call them bitter, they'd say "hell yeah, I'm bitter."

The other characters on Volumes 1 and 2 belie a truthiness as well as the truth. There's Barbara, a gay-divorcee with a drink and dream, answering "musician wanted ads" and forcing her 36 years of inexperience on unsuspecting dudes seeking bassists. She may not be a real person, but she's obviously real. There are numerous characters trying to figure out how to get a giant Kenny from South Park tattoo, or the Taco Bell dog over their eyebrow. They are losers, but they have all the dimensions of real, live, American losers. Take the aforementioned Bleachy, for example: a wheezing black man of massive girth and slight height, whose presence across both volumes includes several attempts to join the army ("My dad won't let me live here no more, I wanna live with you guys"), an altercation at Rally's (regarding the aforementioned Big Buford sandwich) and search for dessert at T.G.I. Friday’s. He's an entirely sympathetic character – who doesn't like a 99 cent burger? – but he exists because Earles and Jensen believe in him. He exists because Earles and Jensen chose to give him a voice, a voice we all know exists but, out of political correctness or straight up denial, many of us have chosen to ignore. Bleachy lives. Now who's the elitist? Two hours of Earles & Jensen makes everyone a repentant elitist.

By Andy Freivogel

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