Tommy Johnagin | Stand Up Comedy 2
Freud once said, “You know the rules, Anna. One must always use a coaster when bringing one’s froths into my study. Now, for the last time, fetch my paddle and leather spanking mask at once!” But he also once said, “The unconscious mind reflexively attempts to impose some kind of structure when presented with an ambiguous task, and thus its true nature is revealed.” Perhaps this is why stand-up comedy holds such a fascination for me. Surely, nothing can be more projective than handing a microphone to someone in a sweaty bar clotted with disinterested drunkards and providing only the simplest direction – “Make us laugh!”
Having donned my psychoanalyst’s cap and readied my chamomile tea (no cocaine or cigars for me), I am now prepared to share my thoughts on Tommy Johnagin’s latest recording, Stand Up Comedy 2 (Comedy Central Records, 2011).
As is often the case with young comedians, Tommy Johnagin is not quite ready to grow up. This is not surprising, given the fact that his own father once confessed to Tommy that he wasn’t ready to be a dad; the fact that Tommy was his fourth child is funny, but also thought-provoking given Tommy’s apparent confusion about physical expressions of love (“More tongue? Less tongue? Should I pinch her nipple or is it too early for that?”), reproduction (“You can accidentally create a human being, but if you want to build a shed, you have to want to make that shed!”), and his misgivings and mishandling of babies (“We need heavier baby shoes!”).
Clinging to his youth, preoccupied with adolescent concerns and reluctant to become a man, Tommy’s progression through the typical stages of psychosexual development appears to have been arrested by the fear of adult responsibilities (The CD, in fact, starts with Tommy’s story about his first time smoking pot, or what Freud called the Oral Stage). While many a golden comedy nugget has been culled from the morass that is pubescent angst, Tommy Johnagin proves incapable of letting his guard down long enough to thoroughly explore his predicament, more often than not opting for superficial quips more appropriate for a cable clip show (and sounding like a Daniel Tosh impersonator in the process) instead of searching for a more mature understanding of his inner psyche.
Don’t get me wrong – this CD isn’t bad; it just doesn’t require much frontal lobe activity from the listener to enjoy it and, therefore, it represents a missed opportunity for something more substantial and enduring (thus the relatively low Genius rating of 20). Stand Up Comedy 2 is essentially easy listening comedy, perfect for washing one’s car, emptying the dishwasher, or frothing one’s froths. Tommy’s choice of subject matter is, for the most part, unimaginative, and indicative of a nascent understanding of how the adult world works (At one point, Tommy actually concludes that the sex drives of men and women are different!!!).
An open letter to Tommy Johnagin:
Let’s take a break from comedy and agree to journey inwards, toward the bubbling source of your anxiety. Judging by the title of your CD alone, I can tell this won’t be easy as I see you have built an impenetrable wall around your true self. Stand Up Comedy 2? We’re not listening to a Time Life recording of the posthumous dregs of Milton Berle’s career here! I can only imagine the angst you felt when trying to sum up the collection of miscellany you have presented here. The no-frills title inadvertently serves as a warning to your potential audience that you are not quite ready to take the sort of risks necessary to elevate your craft. Don’t compare a nadir in your sex life to living in a house without a bathroom, lose the PMS jokes (“I don’t know the last time someone had mood swings and it landed on ‘Good.’”), and be more real.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy catching glimmers of your true self that slipped past your superego’s sentries. For the sake of both your comedy career and your mental health, I suggest you explore your feelings of abandonment when your fiancée called off the engagement (possible father issues resurfacing?), the random phone call from your mother (“How long does cocaine stay in your hair?”), and the yard sale/Goodwill school clothes shopping experiences. These bits all hint at a deeper puzzle that requires a less defensive posture on your part to put the pieces of your life together (for our amusement).
Stop acting like a 20 year old because as you know “[t]alking to a 20 year old is like talking to a baby, except babies don’t have dumb ideas yet.”
I anticipate a significant change in your approach to comedy by the time Stand Up Comedy 5 is released and I look forward to it!
P.S. Who knows? Maybe you just need the love of a good woman (but, to paraphrase Freud, maybe you just need a good old-fashioned spanking link: