Published Jul 18, 2016Joe List knows how to write and deliver a joke. From beginning to end, Are You Mad at Me?, List's second album, displays a mastery of craft befitting a comic who's put in his time and worked his way up to both the very best New York rooms and the Late Show with David Letterman. If even for only the deft of the timing and joke-construction alone, this is an album in which it is easy to take delight.
With an almost vaudevillian feel of the joke-joke rhythm (and off-rhythm), the bulk of the set is a coolly, confidently delivered survey of one anxious man's self-deprecations and discomforts with the world. For instance, List can't relax in the fog of a steam room, where one can't know just where the elderly man is until he's "a penis distance away from your face." List is clearly sensitive to life's little indignities and embarrassments and has a way of bringing out their experience evocatively.
Perhaps the one aspect where the album may leave a listener wanting is just a little more depth or the messiness of the human. The entire album seems to go by so quickly — which will happen when you're enjoying yourself and really laughing — but then you come to wonder just how much more, if only List would allow himself to maybe lose some of the control, we could come to understand and see. List has a way of touching upon the more serious — such as his alcoholism, fear of death and panic attacks — without somehow impacting upon you their seriousness. None of which is to say, of course, that the comedy that he does do, he doesn't do beautifully. This is one to sit back to and savour the unfolding of the joke. (Comedy Central)