Published Feb 24, 2015Actor/comedian Eddie Pepitone — the doomsday schlepping, gourmand abhorring political malcontent himself — has a new comedy album. In Ruins, his second live recording in four years, is an absolutely livid romp through the classic comedic outburst. In his element, Pepitone is both furious and composed, absurdist and deadly serious. He's Bill Hicks with no volume control and Larry David whispering in his ear. He's Steve Martin if you took his banjo and told him nothing would ever be okay again.
Those unfamiliar with Pepitone's career may recognize him as the recurring "New York City Heckler" on Conan, Archer in the 2003 blockbuster Old School, or from The Sarah Silverman Show.
When Pepitone raises his voice we picture Brooklyn, a Brooklyn Pepitone claims is going soft due to gourmet hipster restaurants and a lack of doo-wop groups, but Brooklyn nonetheless. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, Pepitone has harvested the working class ideals, liberal values and fervour for community and fraternity that so characterizes the way Brooklyn has been portrayed for decades. Rough around the edges, unabashedly loud, intense and uproarious, this recording couldn't have been made anywhere else.
In Ruins is a wide reaching tirade with little reprieve. Pepitone rails against American interventionism in Iraq and beyond — one of his best gags depicts the Iraq War as a contested item on The Price is Right. Pepitone's derisive material cuts a wide swathe, condemning "corporate stooges" and world leaders, Tweeters, Facebook users, grilled cheese connoisseurs, winos, comedians, magicians (especially magicians) and industrial agriculture practitioners to whatever his conception of the lowest circle of hell may be.
Pepitone's style inevitably places him firmly atop the proverbial soapbox. That said, he manages to pull off the crucial American "everyman factor" with a surprising amount of grace for a man with the social discretion of a street preacher with his hair on fire. That's what makes In Ruins such a funny, relatable record. Pepitone's America is — if his stage persona is to be believed — a hopeless dump whose chief exports are hypocrisy, violence and incompetence. If he's even a little bit right, and American citizens have things half as bad as he says they do, who wouldn't relate to an angry old man screaming at the top of his lungs? Pepitone knows who his audience is beyond a doubt. He knows how a large portion of his country feels, and he embodies that frustration completely. That's what gives In Ruins its relevancy.
While not all of In Ruins is political — some of his best moments are not — there is no mistaking his preoccupation. Vehement as Pepitone's opinions may be, they often lack some depth, which causes parts of In Ruins to be somewhat dull by the third or fourth listen. Whether that should have been improved upon depends on what Pepitone's goals were. If he wanted to make people think, he could've done better. If he was looking to show the United States it's inconsistent, paranoid pulse, he hit the mark. In Ruins is smart, aggressively engaging, and seriously funny.