Picks and Pans Review: Buy This, Pigs!

updated 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Judy Tenuta

These two comedians have something in common besides their exclamation points. They both rely on arrogance and sarcasm for a lot of their humor. Both take frequent digs at their audiences and gradually work the digs into excavations. Mason, however, is an old-line East Coast stand-up comic. What is most astonishing about this record of the Broadway show that revived his apparently comatose career is how little changed he seems at 55. He still sounds much like the sour comic who broke through on the Ed Sullivan Show in the '60s. Much of his material revolves around Jewish stereotypes—"Did you hear about the guy who was half-Polish and half-Jewish? He's a janitor but he owns the building." There are a few jokes on other ethnic groups: "I go to Puerto Rico every year just to visit my hubcaps." And Mason does a routine on President Reagan that's notable mostly for being lame: "He's one of the great Presidents of all time but nobody knows it 'cause he don't do nothin'." It's nice to hear Mason mellowed out enough to laugh along with his audience at New York's Brooks Atkinson Theatre, obviously relishing the response, but it's still hard to explain his comeback. Tenuta, 31, is from Oak Park, Ill., and an altogether different proposition, a limit tester if ever there was one. She has moments of Pee Wee Herman, Bobcat Goldthwait, Sam Kinison and Sandra Bernhard in her, along with large gobs of raving maniac. She describes herself as "the petite flower, giver-goddess, fashion plate, saint...blesser of bunions, empress of Elvis impersonators" and asks her audience (the album was recorded at Caroline's in Manhattan), "How many of you ever started dating someone because you were too lazy to commit suicide?" Her shtick also includes a good line for turning down an unwanted date: "I was looking for someone a little closer to the top of the food chain." A lot of her stuff could be called tasteless—it could be called grounds for tar-and-feathering in some places. She notes, for example, that she has been dating Pope John Paul II (though she adds that "I'm using him to get to God") and has written a country song in his honor: "I just want a cowboy to whom I can confess/ I just want a cowboy in a long, white silky dress." True, she may not know when she ought to stop. She trashes Yoko Ono's singing—"Why doesn't she just run a rake across a chalkboard?"—then adds, "I'm sorry, but if that guy had aimed a little to the left, he would have been a hero." Tenuta does have an ear for debatable clichés, though, and a remarkably elastic voice that ranges from a screech to decent rock 'n' roll parody. She is, in short, a kind of Lucille Ball for the '80s. (Mason: Warner Bros.; Tenuta: Elektra)

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