The Michigan Daily discovered in November 2004 that several articles written by arts editor Alex Wolsky did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and the Daily no longer stands by its content. For details, see the Daily’s editorial.

Few comedians these days aspire to the pointed, acerbic style of those who aimed to change the world with their comedy: Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor and most recently, Bill Hicks. In a social climate in which it’s commonplace to question everything, most comedians today choose to shrink away from controversial topics like politics or religion. No one seems to be doing the kind of comedy that makes their audience squirm, or at the very least, think. That’s why comedian David Cross is absolutely necessary.

Recorded in January 2004 during a four-night stand in Washington, D.C., It’s Not Funny is the official follow-up to Cross’s debut, Shut Up, You Fucking Baby! This time around, the comedian has almost entirely abandoned the societal observations he perfected on the HBO sketch comedy “Mr. Show” for purely political tactics.

Cross begins by examining the transformation people undergo when they have children (“It’s like they have amnesia,” he notes) and an impromptu bit about goth-metal band Evanescence before jumping into the politics. He attacks President Bush’s character and his foreign policies and domestic policies. In the end, however, Cross’s comedy elicits laughter, but fails to connect: His impulse to humor and educate through his anger alienates listeners.

It’s Not Funny demonstrates that Cross is. an engaging, intelligent comedic force that goes for the jugular at a time when other performers don’t. But by the second half of the album, Cross’s vitriolic banter hits the point of no return. While his rambling is often offensive, he is brave to tip-toe near the boundaries of comedy — an absurd notion in a country that freely circulates jokes about Helen Keller and dead babies. The mixture of social criticism and political commentary, however, is severely lacking on It’s Not Funny, and the overall performance suffers. He’s a political force — in doses. By the end of the album, Cross’s whining and over-use of references overshadow the humor.

Die-hard fans — those who are already memorizing punch-lines from It’s Not Funny to go along with their favorite “Mr. Show” moments —immediately position Cross next to Bruce or Hicks. Cross’s rambling, while potent, don’t evolve as other classic comedians’ work did; as a result, his offerings look shabby. He uses his tried-and-true routines as a crutch and, unfortunately on It’s Not Funny, it shows.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

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