Nick Youssef Tackles Modern Life on 1982

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Nick Youssef Tackles Modern Life on <i>1982</i>

1982, the new stand-up album from comedian (and occasional Paste contributor) Nick Youssef, sounds like a bootleg. And not even one of those soundboard tapes that Deadheads prioritize: it sounds like somebody’s propped up a mic out on the floor, in the middle of the audience, capturing not just Youssef’s performance but a lot of ambient crowd sounds as well. It’s a unique aesthetic for an officially released comedy album, one that makes you feel like you’re actually in the room in San Francisco as Youssef performs, and it makes an already good album stand out even more.

Youssef is a very conversational comic. He has the patter down, with a distinct and insistent rhythm, but it’s not like he’s spitting out boilerplate crowd work or unnecessary asides just to avoid silence. His words feel carefully considered, and they all contribute to the stories he tells, from his LA friends’ confusion over his riding a bike, to the overwhelming nature of Spotify (where, yes, you can listen to 1982). He sounds a little anxious and highly caffeinated but still comfortable and assured in his material and his ability to deliver it.

Youssef doesn’t spend much time on what he terms his “ethnic ambiguity” (although the one, short track about his Lebanese background is a strong one). Most of his material deals with aging (he’s in his mid-thirties), the differences between him in his twenties and the twentysomethings of today, and how technology has so thoroughly changed how we live now, while also creating a massive generation gap between those who grew up with the internet and those who came before. It might sound like familiar turf, but that’s because it’s so universal—who, in their thirties or older, hasn’t wondered what our reliance on the internet, smartphones and instant, on demand entertainment will do to those who grow up knowing nothing else? Youssef is a perceptive critic of modern life, but he never forgets he’s there to make people laugh, and he does that a lot with 1982.