If you haven’t heard of Michael Palascak before now, your first impression while listening to his album That One Thing is likely to be similar to mine: “Damn. I like this guy.” Which sounds more condescending than it is. In a world where many comedians live and die on an air of (increasingly rare) genuineness, Palascak has it in spades, and its on full display in his new album.
Starting off with straightforward and lighthearted jabs at T-Mobile, Palascak’s hapless everyman personality extends into his Mitch Hedberg-esque vocal patterns. He pokes fun at the photo montages at weddings—after all, he wasn’t at the ceremony saying “I don’t know if they should be together. I don’t even know if they’ve rock climbed yet.” The topics covered are largely the usual road comic fare (marriage, airplanes, hotel service), and he segues through these topics confidently and smoothly. But what’s sometimes frustrating is that despite the conventionalities of the material, Palascak approach is specific and excellent. He is a superb joke teller; the album just makes one wish that he would dig a little deeper. He’s charming enough to make us want to find out what Palascak thinks about Palascak, not just gay marriage, binge watching and facetime.
The material gets more specific as the album goes on, and this serves him well. The supremely silly “cheese in my pocket” bit speaks for itself, and the closing story for which the album is named is great, stretching one phrase a defensive boy repeats to his father into a delightful five-minute finale.
Sometimes, admittedly, things get a little ugly, as when Palascak describes being in the “minority row” of a Southwest flight. “I want rights!” he jokes, before admitting that he doesn’t know how that works and backing down more and more throughout the bit. It seems that Palascak is actually too good-natured to really believe in that kind of clubby, tone-deaf joke. (Though he does do a good job of pointing out the inherent sexism in Game of Thrones, and has a nice bit regarding criticizing the Catholic church on gay marriage as a practicing Catholic.) The album gives off the impression of someone with incredible instincts and whip smart execution, who nevertheless is held back by his own conceptions (or others’ expectations) of what the medium can or should do. I find myself wishing the album was less comedically efficient and more explorative, from an artistic standpoint, but I can’t deny that I grinned from ear to ear all the way through.
That One Thing is available through Audible Channels.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and actor. Follow him at @grahamtechler.