David Cross' first album, Shut Up, You Fucking Baby!, was a sprawling double-disc set, which was a risk. Not only are double-disc debuts a rarity, but comedy albums are notoriously inconsistent, so Cross was putting himself out on the line, but he succeeded grandly, delivering an epic masterpiece that fully captured the range and scope of his humor and stayed funny on repeated listens. Perhaps it was inevitable that its successor would suffer in comparison, and It's Not Funny, released 18 months later in the spring of 2004, does. Part of the problem is that he's covering many of the same topics he did on Shut Up; even though 9/11 and George W. Bush loomed as large on the American psyche in 2004 as they did in 2002 -- it'd only been 18 months, after all -- his jokes on these topics aren't markedly different than they were on the previous record, nor are they better, and even if you agree with his politics, there's simply too much of an emphasis on this, particularly since he's reworking the same territory, not developing it. This gives a little credibility to the suspicion that It's Not Funny was rushed to release. The album is culled from a series of performances at the Improv in Washington, D.C., between January 15 and 18, 2004, which, given the May 5 release, didn't give Cross and his production team much time to edit and complete the album, and it does indeed have a bit of a tossed-off feel as if Cross were still working on new material that was rushed to market. Another part of the problem is that these shows were at a comedy club, not a rock venue, where Cross prefers to perform since they have a looser, wilder feel. Certainly, It's Not Funny feels more like a traditional comedy record than Shut Up since it feels more like a collection of jokes, and it also suffers from inconsistent material. But since Cross is one of the sharpest, smartest, and flat-out funniest comedians of his time, the album is still very much worthwhile. It may be a collection of moments, but when the moments click, they kill, whether it's a bit about electric scissors, a story about eating at an expensive restaurant where they serve edible gold, or a segment on Bush's religion. These may not be as memorable as the best moments on Shut Up -- nothing like the immortal story about getting drunk with Harlow -- but that's an unfair yardstick since his peers couldn't live up to that album either. Instead of being a classic, It's Not Funny is a solid comedy recording capturing a good, average performance by a brilliant comedian. It may not be timeless, which its predecessor certainly was, but it is sure worth a listen.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine