Straight-faced absurdity. That's the name of Nick Thune's game and he's darn good at it. As a comedian, his style falls somewhere between that of the late Mitch Hedberg and Zach Galifianakis. That's not to say that he doesn't have an identity of his own. He is a quirky, intelligent comic and this CD / DVD set serves as a good introduction to his skewed world view, although it could definitely be a bit longer.
The DVD half of this release presents Thune's 30 minute set for Comedy Central Presents. As Nick walks out onto the stage with a guitar slung across him, one has to wonder: is he going to be a singing comedian or a comedic singer? While he has a perfectly nice singing voice, I must assure you that he is definitely the former. Even though his strummed guitar is present throughout practically the whole show, he tends to use it as a mood-setting backing track for the most part. The first third of his act consists entirely of him uttering surreal one-liners over the strains of his guitar. His musings range from topics such as the length of Scantron's exclusivity contract with #2 pencils to the exact conditions that must have necessitated the 'killing of two birds with one stone'. While his material is entirely original, it is his adopted persona that elevates it to something special. He releases all of his brain-droppings with a straight-faced candor that verges on smugness. He would be insufferable if it weren't for the fact that it is all an act. The 'real' Nick Thune occasionally betrays himself with a half-smile which just makes us want to watch the one on stage a little bit longer.
Moving on to the second portion of his set, Thune puts away the guitar to unveil a bit that makes drug humor smarter than it's been in a long time. While some comics would be content with talking about how crazy they get when they're high, Thune takes a more precise and literate approach. He brings out a diary in which he has recorded his friend's behavior after smoking a fair amount of weed. The matter-of-fact reading places a fine point on just how silly a person, who is high, must seem to a sober onlooker. This brings us to the final third of his act where Thune brings back his guitar for a couple of songs. To be fair, the only parts of these songs that are actually sung are the choruses. The rest of the time, Thune reverts to a strummed storytelling style that builds on his opening one-liners. His first song tells the tale of an early brush with love framed as an overwrought melodrama during the dawn of the internet age. Although the punch line is obvious from the very start, it is a testament to Thune's skill that he still extracts a huge reaction from the audience at the end of the song. For his second song, he stays in the territory of impersonal online relationships but tackles it with the help of his friend, Peter Stephens, who joins him on stage in an outfit that screams sleep-spelunking. Although funny in its own right, Thune gives the song and the show a big finish by weaving an audience member's bathroom habits into the lyrics.
The CD half of this release is a bit longer than the DVD, with a duration of 47:57 but it largely covers the same material. A few bits are extended while others are shortened. There are only a few bits that are not represented in his Comedy Central Presents appearance but I assume they were left out due to time constraints because it definitely wasn't due to a lack of quality. It is worth mentioning that Thune sounds a bit looser on the CD. He doesn't seem to be adhering to his persona quite as strictly and this lends the entire set a more relaxed and goofy feel. The CD does end on a down note for me as Thune decides to include a few of his studio songs. He chooses to trade in the sharpness of his material by largely relying on parodying song styles instead. The results range from short throwaways (Butterflies, Lobster) to failed self-indulgent experiments (Here Girl, Dreams). Only one song (Iron Man) recaptures Thune's absurdist energy with its truly creepy breakdown. If nothing else, these songs demonstrate that Thune can sound like Bruce Springsteen being backed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra when he really puts his mind to it.
Next up we have 5 iThunes Short Films (approx. 25 mins total runtime). These shorts are 5-6 minutes in length and capture Thune in all of his widescreen cinematic glory. Phone Tag paints Thune as a delusional dude who can't stop stalking his ex played by Olivia Munn. Along the way, we get to see how the Butterflies song was born. Lobster shows Nick's sensitive side as he goes looking for a date with Kristin Cavallari but finds friendship with a crustacean instead. This short fleshes out the Lobster song and makes it something greater than the odd curiosity I initially thought it to be. AIM places the instant messenger song from Thune's act in the context of a tech support group meeting while Here Girl tries to make a song about a pregnant dog funny but just falls flat. The highlight here is Load / Unload which features Thune in a race against time and a parking cop played by Kevin Heffernan (of Broken Lizard fame) that would make Ferris Bueller or Lola proud. Also worth noting is that most of these short films were directed by a pre-Zombieland Ruben Fleischer.
The final extra isn't really worth mentioning because it really isn't worth including on this release. For some reason, we have the 20 min version of the Comedy Central Presents show that was aired on television. Since it was only edited for time to allow for commercials, I'm not sure why we need the shorter version if the uncut version is supposed to be the main draw. Inexplicable but there you have it.