Andrew Daly - "Life of the Party, Inc." (Nine Sweaters)
Modern comedy doesn’t usually spring from jokes. It usually starts and ends with a character. Which makes Andrew Daly one of the strangest success stories from the abundant “underground” comedy scene in Los Angeles. He doesn’t just embody a comic persona, a deft self-caricature of a difficult personality. He conjures a sprawling cast of hapless dreamers, inept scam artists and charismatic sadists. His characters come and go like mayflies, but while they’re alive, he never drops the character he brought. Daly himself remains impossible to triangulate, but his exaggerated league of losers serve as vehicles for some raucous, delightfully painful ideas.
The bits on the double-disc Nine Sweaters were recorded over the course of Daly’s nine-week residency at the star-studded Tuesday night show Comedy Death-Ray. (Each disc also sneaks in a “bonus” bit, for a total of 11.) Daly is best known for his competent celebrity impressions on the generally infuriating MADtv (he was also slated to host TBS’s update of Match Game, a project currently writhing in development hell), but Nine Sweaters more closely reflects his experience as an improviser with the locally dominant UCB Theatre.
After being introduced by a different bewildered MC (including Jimmy Pardo, Brody Stevens and other site-specific somebodies), Daly takes the stage as a character inspired by whatever sweater he picked. At first, these people seem mostly harmless: a shticky Irishman who won a storytelling contest; a corny family entertainer fresh off a disastrous road-trip; an over-amped Hollywood scenester looking for an audience; an ambitious, likeable comic. As the stories progress, Daly slowly reveals each man’s seething pathology: tragic tunnel vision; profound post-traumatic stress; social miscalibration enhanced by a relentless coke jones; a penchant for torturing the vulnerable.
Even minus the visual elements, to witness an audience dragged around by an untrustworthy narrator can rack the nerves. In an awesome way! And Daly takes extreme liberties with his awkwardly cooperative public. Leading a tainted sing-along is one thing. But on “Life of the Party, Inc.,” his most powerful, least comforting bit; Daly plays a misanthropic sleazeball who enhances social gatherings with insults, provocations and vivid, violent threats. When he pumps dance music and screams orders at the crowd (which forms a distressed conga line)… you won’t find alt-comedy served much more bloody.