The Comedy Album 2776 Has 100 Stars, But NPR's Nina Totenberg Steals It

Illustration for article titled The Comedy Album em2776/em Has 100 Stars, But NPRs Nina Totenberg Steals It

Everybody's buzzing about the new comedy album 2776, which is chock full of famous comedians and personalities, riffing about the future and science-fictional stuff. Almost everybody you love is on this album — but perhaps surprisingly, the clear standout is NPR's Nina Totenberg's a capella rock opera.


Seriously, it's not even close. Totenberg's performance is so beautifully loopy and clever, it's worth buying the whole thing just to marvel at her vocal stylings. Totenberg does a faux NPR segment on a Supreme Court debate in the case of "U.S.A. V. Rock 'n' Roll", in which a futuristic Supreme Court is deciding whether Rock 'n' Roll should still be permitted. And this turns into not just insane judicial singing, but also guitar solos, all created by Totenberg's surprisingly mellifluous voice. I nearly fell out of my chair listening to it.

The rest of 2776 is fun, for the most part. At its best, it reminds me of those comedy albums that Stan Freberg used to put out, back in the day, about American history or whatnot. Bits of the album fall pretty flat, but at least half the songs are definitely keepers.


The very loose concept of 2776 is that it's the 1000th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and an alien shows up wanting to destroy America. So the future president (Will Forte) and his bodyguard (Aubrey Plaza) go back in time to survey American history and prove to the alien that America is great. Sort of.

A lot of the satire in 2776 takes aim at really soft, easy targets — but the cleverest bits are genuinely inventive. Here's the Youtube for Aimee Mann's fantastic "I'm Cured," a breakup song sung by the common cold to humanity:

Also fantastic: the demented time travel song where a group of people get hold of a time machine — but they include Right Said Fred and Mayim Bialik, who only want to go back in time to 1991, when Right Said Fred had a bit hit single and Mayim was Blossom. (And Mayim raps!) "Mole Lotta Love" features Bobcat Goldthwaite as a subterranean mutant in love with a girl (Sally Timms) who's dumping him.

Some of the potshots at America's foibles work pretty well, too — Patton Oswalt's blues song, sung by a God who's decided to stop blessing America is pretty hilarious.

And then some of the songs are less funny, or less successful generally. Neko Case sings a lament about male-dominated geek culture that seems to revolve around the idea that women can't like aliens and robots. (Or that women only like kittens and puppies. I get that she's poking fun, but it's hard to tell what at, and the jokes just don't land.) Some of the other songs are just kind of forgettable.


But all in all, at least half the stuff on this album is worth listening to multiple times, and at least a few tracks are instant classics. Plus it's a fundraiser for kids. So you should definitely hunt it down like a relentless killer robot from the future and obtain a copy.

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Craig Michael Ranapia

But all in all, at least half the stuff on this album is worth listening to multiple times, and at least a few tracks are instant classics.

Which is a respectable achievement for any comedy, because whoever said "dying is easy, comedy is hard" nailed one of the essential truths of the universe. Am I the only person who can more or less endure a mediocre drama, but there's something about unfunny comedy that just brings out my internal Critical Hulk?