Monday, May 10, 2010

REVIEW: Keith Lowell Jensen - "To the Moon" - Comedy CD

He is Sacramento's own Keith Lowell Jensen.  We embrace him with a kind of pride usually only reserved for the likes of Tesla...Cake...or Molly Ringwald.  But while all of those just mentioned can sing, Keith, instead, croons a song of sarcastic mirth.  Comedy is timbre of his vibrato.  His lyrics are the observations and experiences of his life that speak to the shared existence of us all.  And through his serenade, we find that there's a little bit of Keith in all of us.

Or at least those of us who are consistently mistaken for being gay, like to watch our porn backwards, and don't get along very well with our imaginary friends.

You might know Keith as the Atheist on the Coexist Comedy Tour, or might have seen him back when he toured with Spike & Mike's, or might have even see him on Lopez Tonight and asked, "Why is that skinny white boy on TV impersonating Chris Rock while standing next to Chris Rock?".  But those of us in the Sacramento comedy world know him best as the founder and host of Comedy Night at Luna's, the every-Wednesday comedian showcase that takes place in Midtown at Luna's Cafe.  It's fitting to us, then, that Keith chose to record his newest comedy CD - "To the Moon" - at Luna's.  He performs all over the country, but if anywhere is his comedic home, it's Luna's.

What makes this CD such a pleasure, even before Keith takes the stage after the introduction, is the audio environment.  The recording perfectly captures what an evening of comedy at Luna's sounds like, a small but enthusiastic venue that many Sacramento comics find to be their favorite room to play.  The CD takes on the same personal, more intimate ambiance one finds on any given Wednesday in this artsy juice bar, as opposed to the impersonal overwhelm of a large club.

Jensen connects immediately with his audiences, and does so once more with this taping.  His particular charm is a combination of boyish enthusiasm, indignation, and subtle self-deprecation.  His years of experience at the game have taught him how to come off as speaking with the audience, not to it.  There's a genuineness in his performances, which is helped by drawing much of his material from his own life history, as the best in the comedy field always do.

Leaving his Atheism material behind (that which delights crowds on the Coexist tour or local shows like the recent "Ha Ha Heathens" night at the Sacramento Comedy Spot), Keith focuses, instead, on a range of subjects from touring stories in small towns, fatherhood, computer tech support, high school nightmares, his own oft-mislabeled sexual orientation, the history of pornography, Jenny McCarthy, dumb people, and his own evil, evil brother.  The crowd is with him, and loves it, with numerous laughter and applause breaks.  Once more, the familiar sounds of Luna's are captured, including the distinctive (and always appreciated by us comics) laughter of Babalou (she who takes the money at the door) and even the barely-heard ringing of the Luna's phone.  I like to imagine that the call was from someone asking, "What time does Keith Lowell Jensen go on?" halfway through Keith's set.

I had a number of laugh-out-loud moments during my listening of this CD, which is unusual for me, as I'm more of a laugh-on-the-inside kind of comedy fan.  I noticed this mainly because I was listening on my iPod out on my patio, and each time I laughed I surprised myself and looked around to make sure none of my neighbors were walking by and thinking I'd gone mental.  I've seen Keith on stage many times now, and was pleased to find most of "To the Moon" was material I'd not heard before.  And it was really good material.  Keith's writing and comedic timing sync together perfectly in this hour-long set, with all the right surprises, expert pauses, and inflections of his voice that he wields like a sword (if swords made people laugh instead of bleed and die).  Keith is the journeyman comedian who knows his craft and knows his audience, and exudes a confidence that never comes off cocky.  It's the confidence of a comedian who's seen it all, who's played every kind crowd on every kind of stage, and lets nothing shake him.  He carries just the right dosage of fearlessness that makes his words and tales impossible to ignore, and makes us grateful to be on the ride he's taking us on.

"To the Moon" is a winner, a perfect starting point for the KLJ-uninitiated and a treat for long-time fans.  It's available on Amazon for $14.99 for the CD, or an $8.99 MP3 download.  If you're up for an auditory trip to downtown Sacramento, an evening amongst close tables and friendly company (and a very tasty turkey melt, my personal favorite on the Luna's menu), and a lot of laughs at the expense of a man who truly knows how to pull them from you, then pick this one up.  Keith Lowell Jensen, the pride of Success High, is saving you a spot up front.


  1. You nailed KLJ: "His particular charm is a combination of boyish enthusiasm, indignation, and subtle self-deprecation. His years of experience at the game have taught him how to come off as speaking with the audience, not to it. There's a genuineness,,,"

  2. Ah thanks. What a flattering review. No, this doesn't mean more time for you at Luna's. Oh, who am I kidding, YES IT DOES.

  3. Good news is, I get an extra ten minutes. Catch is, I have to spend all of it talking about Keith.