Thursday, May 21, 2009

First Rush (comedy)

First Rush (1972)
by Chris Rush

Back in the early 60s, comedy albums were big. People would go to parties not expecting to hear music, but, instead, the host would put on a comedy record for everyone.  And comedians loved to cash in, since it was a great way to reach a larger audience for an extended act.  Most TV shows only gave you five minutes or so; a record could be 40 minutes, allowing you to build into a full routine.  For a time, comedy albums actually topped the album charts.

The popularity faded away, but up through the 70s, record companies continued to put out new talent to try to hit the jackpot. And the funniest record I ever heard was First Rush by Chris Rush.

Rush was a former National Lampoon writer* who went into stand up. His act was dirty mouthed, though not with much preoccupation with sex. But he had a unique comedy style.  Nearly all comedians use the form of setup-punchline-setup-punchline, alternating between setting up the joke and then telling going with the punchline.  Some use a double punchline -- a topper to the joke following immediately afterwards.

Chris Rush told his jokes in the format setup-punchline-punchline-punchline-PUNCHLINE, with each punchline funnier than the next. You'd barely have time to laugh at the first before he hits you with another.  You end up developing "laugh face,"** where your cheeks and jaws end up hurting from all the laughs.

The subjects were kind of a mixture of George Carlin and Lennie Bruce***  He observes things about life at the time, with hilarious results.  My favorite was "Abie's Magic Hat," more a single joke than a routine, but one that nails the absurdity of some religious practices.  "Jesus in a Dope Bust" was also fairly well known, based on the concept that Jesus hung out with the type of people who would be considered hippies in the 60s.

The album is long unavailable and doesn't seem to have made the transition to CD.  Rush continued as a comedian, even putting out a few CDs, but never became a major star. First Rush's drug references date it a bit, but it's still as funny as anything you'll hear.

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*Well, he was billed as such.  It looks like he only wrote seven articles (several of which ended in "Best of Lampoon" collections, though) in the first year of the magazine, and was not among their major names like Doug Kenny, Henry Beard, Michael O'Donoghue, etc.

**Rush used the term himself on the LP.

***Some critics of the time thought he paled next to Bruce.  I've seen very little of Lenny, but I think they were focusing on Rush's language and not seeing a whole different style of comedy.

6 comments:

Mitch Goldstein said...

Chris Rush is alive and well (and is performing in NYC!)

Check out www.chrisrushcomedy.com for the newly remastered digital re-release of First Rush!

Mitch
zelator@gmail.com

Fred R. said...

The album was released in 1973 not '72, but anyway this is a great piece of comedy history. Its a shame Chris isn't bigger like his contemporaries. First Rush should be listened to by anybody who loves stand-up comedy. His other albums Beaming In & There's No Bones In Ice Cream are also to be heard. Go to Itunes or Amazon if you haven't already, to hear comedy gold. COME TO FL CHRIS!!!

Facts on the Ground said...

In fact an excerpt from First Rush was included in a floppy vinyl record as an insert in National Lampoon. That's where I and some of my friends first heard him.

Anonymous said...

I was working a college-town radio station and got the promo album. Of course we couldn't air the material so I got the record and played it until the grooves wore out and the tuning arm would slide across the vinyl. The cover was different - with several examples of what a "first rush" might be like - such as the boy kissing the girl and - well, let's just say he was VERY premature.

Oh - walk down memory lane, Chris is a station option on Pandora.

But what no one mentioned is the audience on this album. They are obviously getting high (just listen to the tokin') and laughing increasingly uncontrolled as Chris continues his monologues. Great album - very funny man.

O.B. Dan said...

Mitch Goldstein's link didn't work for me...got some Chinese crap...anybody have something more recent?

My first listen to First Rush was at a friend's house, and I got laugh-face like never before. I made a cassette copy (long ago lost)and brought it to my office of sorts, a cubbyhole at a campus FM station where we were small-venue promoters. We all sat around listening (even the jock on the air, who put on a few very lengthy tracks), and we decided to bring him to our area and maybe play a few colleges, then a second time around to promote whatever he released next, only this time to a local 2200 seat converted theatre.

Sadly, it never happened. We could never get our dates together, and eventually moved on.

Anonymous said...

about a year ago Chris had a website (2015 or so). Seems to have been bought by some Japanese form. Can't find any current links to Chris anywhere. Wish I had bought There's No Bones in Ice Cream when it came out - shanks want $30.00 for it now - sorry... retired!