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‘Overwhelmed’ with laughter

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Checking out Ray Harrington’s new album 

Stand-up comedian and Maine native Ray Harrington’s second album, titled “Overwhelmed,” hit the streets (and streaming services and whatnot) on Sept. 8. The album comes courtesy of national comedy label Stand Up! Records and is available for download via iTunes and Amazon.

In this hour-plus record – recorded at the Rockwell in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. – the now-Rhode Island-based comic offers up his standard thoughtful and hilarious observations.

“I’m excited, it's a much more personal hour than my first,” said Harrington in an e-mail. “I was grateful to have the first album [2013’s “The Worst is Over”] do what it did - debuting at number one on Amazon and number two on iTunes.

“But this album, “Overwhelmed,” is special to me, having crafted this hour of material during the process of making and screening of [critically-acclaimed 2015 documentary] ‘Be A Man.’” 

More personal, yes. And very, very good.

Suffice it to say, there’s no sophomore slump to be seen here. Instead, what we get is a strong set featuring Harrington’s delightful combination of everyman attitude and understanding of the absurd.

His take on camping (short version: it’s terrible and you shouldn’t do it) is great fun; combined with a few flashes of self-deprecations regarding his status as a larger fellow, it slays. He does some great stuff about fatherhood, including an extended bit about inadvertently teaching his toddler a curseword – one of the bad ones – that will likely ring true to parents through the laughter.

And then there’s the candy stuff. As a generously-sized guy myself – one possessed of an affinity for candy – I was swept up by this whole stretch. At one point, Harrington seemingly wandered from his set list and started down this primrose path of candy-related riffing that’s just extraordinary. If that was as spontaneous as it felt, then Harrington’s on-stage performance skills match his considerable writing acumen.

Kids, candy, camping, pets – it’s a wild ride.

Perhaps my favorite bit, however – one that really accentuates the skills that make Harrington so engaging – was when he went deep on the idea of listening. The act of listening – and hence observing – is vital to any good comedian, but few embrace it to the extent that Harrington does. Whether he’s riffing on someone at Staples asking for “vanilla folders” or plumbing the depths of his devotion to proper grammar, one can see how sharp eyes and ears have honed his just-as-sharp comedic voice.

Oh, and there’s the part where he lays odds on a fistfight between Anne Frank and Helen Keller. Not only that, but he arrives there in such a way as to have it make all the sense in the world that that’s where we are.

“Overwhelmed” is tight and sharp, with a wonderful sense of pacing that maintains momentum while also finding occasional moments to really let the material breathe. A comedian’s ability to find that balance can make or break an album; nail it and we’re hooked, fail it and we’re gone.

Harrington nails it.

Going into detail with regards to a comedy album is a fool’s errand; as our man E. B. White once said, “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process.” Frankly, I’ve already explained more than I probably should have, but it’s important to note just how varied and vivid Harrington’s material is. He’s smart and savvy with just the right dash of sentimentality … and he’s entertaining as hell.

“Overwhelmed” is an outstanding offering from an exceptional performer. Ray Harrington’s voice is one of most engaging you’re likely to find in the realm of stand-up comedy. If you like your laughs to be honest and heartfelt – with the occasional d—k joke thrown in for good measure – then you need to hear “Overwhelmed” for yourself.

If nothing else, you’ll never look at Mentos the same way again.

(“Overwhelmed” is available for download at iTunes and Amazon. For more information about Ray Harrington – including appearances and other projects – visit his website at www.rayharringtoncomedy.com.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 September 2017 10:11

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