“Sorry about my ring-back tone,” says comedian Cy Amundson of the country music callers hear before his cellphone connects. “It’s on there strictly to upset certain comedian friends of mine who are music snobs.”
Using a ring-back tone to annoy his friends is perfectly in line with Amundson's penchant for pulling pranks. Department store employees make good subjects for this type of activity. In what has become one of his most popular bits, he tells audiences about how he’ll try on a shirt and then ask a store employee, “If you were in junior high, would you trust an adult in this shirt?” Amundson then buys the shirt, and returns later with his 14-year-old nephew and gives the employee an approving nod.
The rest of his set contains tales of the silly ways he deals with people, with many of those stories featuring an odd twist or two. But when it comes to country music, he’s quite serious.
“I love country, but I certainly don’t love what country’s become in the last 10 years,” he explains. However, he’s hopeful that a big change is coming, and offers a rock 'n' roll analogy: “You remember when hairbands were at their crest, then exploded, and then Nirvana happened? I feel like with all this ‘bro’ country bullshit we’re real close to that breaking point.”
Even the casual observer can discern that an act like Florida Georgia Line may be the genre's Nickelback. “I would say somehow they are worse than the Nickleback of country music,” he laughs. “They’re like, the Pennyback.”
He points out that while country music has traditionally been a storytelling genre, many of today’s artists aren’t rising to the challenge. “The stories that are being accepted by the country music fan base are unacceptable and so fucking dumb. But people go along.”
Amunsdon feels that this might have something to do with audiences being trained to accept mediocrity, something that isn’t limited to the music business. For example, much to his dismay, many of his friends are huge fans of The Big Bang Theory.
Growing up, Cy wasn’t allowed to watch MTV, so he became obsessed with sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Cheers. These days, he’s noticed a shift in how the format is constructed. “I think audiences get trained to like stuff, and that can be good or bad and it doesn’t have anything to do with people being stupid.”
Modern sitcoms, Amundson notes, cram as many jokes into a premise as possible, as opposed to getting comedy out of the characters, like Everybody Loves Raymond used to do so well.
“There’s something genius about that show,” Amundson says. “You never felt those characters were saying jokes. What they were saying was inherently funny because of the emotion behind the words. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but that was kind of the last great multi-camera sitcom.”
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. First St., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 Friday and Saturday
For tickets, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com.