Hampton Yount is a silly man, a fact that makes the darkness of his comedy take a moment to register. Exploding with giddy energy, Yount occasionally feels like Jim Brewer if he’d finished college and was haunted by the world. Which sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not. It’s honestly one of the things that make Able such an infectious listen.
Through three albums, a trilogy titled Unbearable, Bearable, and now Able, Yount’s carved out a discography of playful observations on a burning world. Much like his podcast Suicide Buddies with Dave Ross, Able’s subject matter is often pitch black. But his giggle and over the top reactions focus on the silliness of tragedy, making for a cathartic release rather than a wake.
The highlight of the album is “Feelings” a four-minute bit about the generational differences in how couples handle divorce. Culture has had a fascinating transition here from the marriages of grandparents that never ended to our parent’s generation of nightmare divorces to modern couples who brunch after breaking up. It’s a steady stream of jokes, told quickly enough not to let the sad parts sink in.
A chunk about how the elderly ignore the horror of their marriages will resonate with anyone who’s spent time in a nursing home. “Oh they got a divorce? Let me tell you something. A long time ago I found out your grandfather was cheating on me. I didn’t divorce him! I just stopped talking to him for eight years. One night he got drunk, burned my hand on the stove,” quickly adding, “I took up crocheting! You get through these things with Jesus and time!”
Absurdity hangs over each bit. In many ways, the joy of a Hampton Yount joke is discovering the surprise twists on the road. After a series of tragedies, physical and personal, fall on the subject of a joke he screams “what God would allow this?” Before answering himself with “Zeus! He’d totally be okay with that.”
This a very dark album, which becomes evident upon repeat listens. Observations like “Owning a gun isn’t a matter of Democrat versus Republican. It’s a matter of optimist versus pessimist,” sound less harsh coming out of his smiling mouth the first time. But Yount’s struggles with depression, documented here and on podcasts like Suicide Buddies and Terrified, are relatable because of how confident a face he puts forward.
In a culture that regularly asks people to shut up and smile Yount’s comedy resonates because it almost feels like it’s escaping rather than being delivered. Able showcases the little things that build up in your psyche, the well-meaning asides, and stupid slogans, that people use to dismiss other’s experiences. It’s the perfect album to listen to while driving away from a family gathering after an uncle holds court.
Some comics make you gasp and some make you think. Hampton Yount is the sort of comic who’ll make you think after you’re done listening. You’ll bring up a joke to quote to a friend, only to discover how heavy it is after you repeat it. Delivery is everything, and you’re never going to be able to recount it with the same goofy energy. It makes you appreciate his power on stage, a gravitas hidden behind an affable sheen of “ah shucks” charm.
We should also clearly state that this album isn’t just sadness. There’s also goofy bits about men’s pee holes, what happens in the background of porn, and J.K. Rowling’s constant reworking of Harry Potter. Able is a well-rounded piece of work. By mining absurdity across the spectrum, from darkness to family to hypothetical Pixar movies, Yount makes a comfortable space for the hard times when they pop up. It’s a hysterical, occasionally cathartic, listen—a monument to silliness built on horror and whimsical ideas.
John-Michael Bond is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. He’s on Twitter @BondJohnBond.