‘Gateway Doug’ new album for comedian Doug BensonWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Benson isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel with his latest comedy album, “Gateway Doug.” Asked to describe the topics he covers on the new release in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star, the comedian responded, “The same ones I usually talk about: sex, drugs, booze and movies. You know the expression, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Makes sense to me, because I’m a comedian, not a repairman.”
“Gateway Doug” is the latest in a remarkably consistent string of releases from the comedian, famous for his appearances on Comedy Central and “Last Comic Standing.” Six years straight, Benson has held a recording session on April 20 — true Benson fans, and many others, can guess the significance of that — and released the results as an album the following summer.
“I was inspired by the fact that the late, great George Carlin did a new one hour special each year on HBO,” Benson said. “Which is also what the living, great Louis CK does. But since I can’t get an HBO special, I settle for making albums. And no one can stop me!”
This process also means that Benson, like the comedians he idolizes, can’t rest on his laurels. Each year brings the challenge of developing a whole new set of material for the following year’s recording. The end result of the process has almost the effect of a comedy time capsule.
“Each of my albums represents my act that I’m doing in clubs at the time I record it,” Benson said. “So it will give you a real feel for what my live shows are like. In other words, if you don’t like my albums, don’t come see me live!”
Benson said that the evolution of a set of material is a gradual one, though — it’s not like he junks his entire repertoire as soon as the new album is recorded.
“I want the audiences who come to my road shows to be satisfied, so I do proven material for a lot of my sets, while trying some new stuff each show. Eventually all the new stuff becomes proven and I have a new hour for an album. And if you come see me right after a new record comes out, some of the material from the record has changed and evolved a little bit.”
Still, there are plenty of challenges involved in developing a whole new set for a road comic. When you find something that works, you tend to want to stick to it. But for Benson, who went 20 years without an album before this latest run of productivity began, the new material rises gradually through performance.
“It’s much easier to keep doing the same jokes night after night, because you know they work,” Benson said. “But I improvise a lot on stage every night, so as long as I remember the new stuff, I can build a new set for the next CD.”
Benson can be forgiven, though, if his exact memories of this year’s recording session are a little vague, given the date of the album’s recording and his documented tendency to occasionally be in a somewhat altered state while performing. (Last year’s album came in two parts — one while sober, the other while “baked.”)
“I remember that it was really fun,” said of this April’s show. “I did it at a club called Cobb’s in San Francisco, a town where I’ve always enjoyed doing comedy. Crowds there are pretty much up for everything and are difficult to shock as long as the humor is good-natured.”
Benson has carved a niche for himself through such humor, not just with his stand-up but through his comic documentary “Super High Me.” (Benson also runs a podcast called “Doug Loves Movies” where he discusses his passion for films with guests.) And as long as he remains true to that audience, Benson’s yearly routine shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
“I’m just doing my thing and hope that people come along for the ride. And fortunately, they do!”