Confessional comedy is a tightrope walk for any stand-up. It’s about finding the perfect balance of self-revelation, self-deprecation and pure silliness. Little wonder then that female comedians are the best at this because they have no compunction about looking foolish or saying something particularly embarrassing to a group of strangers. And of the many women treading the boards to unveil every disparaging side of their personalities and lives, few are better than Emily Heller.
The San Francisco-born comic is one of those extremely busy people living in L.A. and juggling a half-dozen different projects at the same time to stay both visible and financially afloat. She co-hosts a weekly showcase at UCB, has a podcast, takes acting gigs as they come in (she was until recently a series regular on Ground Floor and does some voice work on Bojack Horseman), and keeps up a steady schedule of live dates in her hometown and beyond. Much of it has been building towards a definitive statement like this: a full-length comedy CD released by a reputable label (in this case, Kill Rock Stars).
If you’ve followed Heller’s career at all, including her appearances on Conan and Meltdown and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show, you will be familiar with some of the material on Good For Her. But hearing it all in one concise chunk like this drove home both her deeper feminist message and added a little extra zing to her already tangy tales of personal and romantic miseries.
Good For Her isn’t an album of woe, however. This feels more celebratory than that. Heller doesn’t mind being single, comparing it to the middle of the road pleasure of watching old Frasier episodes. Nor does she seem to particularly mind the fact that for a few months during elementary school she wore a container of oregano around her neck. These are the things that defined and continue to define her as a person. More importantly, she sees the ridiculousness of doing silly things as a child, but doesn’t shy away from the big decisions she’s made as an adult. She knows what’s best for her. And sometimes what’s best for her is filming her friend’s cats having sex.
Okay, so that last part is a little silly, but that’s just here to illustrate that, again, this isn’t all self-confessional, one-woman Off Broadway show style material. This is a comedy album through and through, and one that elicits more knowing and surprising laughs than most of the stand-up fare I’ve watched and listened to this year. Now it’s just time to sit back and wait patiently while the rest of the world catches up with Emily Heller’s genius.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.