Comedy Review: The Audio AdventureBook of Big Dan Frater, Vol. 1

Published on March 13th, 2015 in: Comedy, Comedy Albums, Current Faves, Reviews |

By Jeffery X Martin

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Big Dan Frater (Brian Howe), Dutch “The Swede” Annacrombie (Dan Conroy), and plucky town librarian Millie Healey (Allison Martin) were all characters in a movie called Trail of the Screaming Forehead, written and directed by Larry Blamire. They were an amusing onscreen trio, certainly strong enough to carry an entire movie on their shoulders, but their triumphant return to the screen never panned out.

So who needs a screen? The Audio AdventureBook of Big Dan Frater, Vol. 1, brings these beloved characters back in a series of five radio plays. There are five different self-contained stories on the album, each one about 15 minutes long. It’s a combination of the old National Lampoon style of comedy album and the radio dramas of the 1930s. The whole concept exists by looking directly into the past to find the present, where the future is waiting.

To give you an idea of what this album is about, the first adventure is called “Big Dan Frater and the Escalator of Forgetfulness.” Our crime-busting heroes are called to a shopping mall to solve the mystery of why people begin to drift about aimlessly on the second floor after taking the escalator upstairs. This is a silly idea, but all the ideas on this album are silly in the smartest of ways.

These skits don’t border on absurdity. They jump into it, face first, and flail about like a baby with its first piece of birthday cake. Strange alleys are explored, mined for jokes, and dropped. Every cut on the album is like this, and they are all wonderfully bizarre and hilarious.

Writer Blamire is a man in love with the language. He makes up words, strangles his sentence structure, and fills his stories with malaprops. At one point, Big Dan says, “I can’t see my eyes in front of my own head!” OK. Maybe that’s not as funny on paper as it is when you hear it, but it’s still clever, and it’s a straight laugh-snort when your hear it. But if you’re one of those folks who believes that malaprops are the lowest form of humor, Big Dan Frater is not for you. It’s a highly intelligent form of gibberish banter, so delicate in structure that if one person is off-rhythm by any amount, the whole thing is thrown off. The fact that these tiny plays work as well as they do is a testament to director Brian Howe’s talent and trust in his group of performers.

Another interesting thing about this—and all of Blamire’s work—is that it is clean. He doesn’t work blue. There is only one bad word on this album and it is a very minor one. One could play this for the entire family. Most family-oriented comedians are terrible or end up attempting to point the audience towards Jesus, but these adventures do not have a moral or an agenda besides making the listener laugh. They aren’t as gleefully anarchic as an Animaniacs episode, but they don’t need to be. The rebellion is in how the language turns against itself, making this is a unique madness from a singular voice.

Blamire has made films, written plays, painted paintings, and created graphic novels. He’s like that local band everyone loves that just can’t quite snag a major label deal. He has a loyal following, and one can only hope that The Audio AdventureBook of Big Dan Frater, Vol. 1 will increase his visibility. This may be the funniest comedy album since Steve Martin’s Let’s Get Small.

Clean absurdist comedy from one of America’s greatest overlooked writers and his core team of performers? Ten bucks is a bargain for this thing. This is an album ripe for memorization and quoting late at night to other friends who “get it.”

The Audio AdventureBook of Big Dan Frater, Vol. 1 was released March 10 and is available on iTunes and AmazonMP3.

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