Comedy is hard, as many a hack has said, but comedy albums are even harder. Consider this: there was an explosion of comedians in the '80s and '90s, yet there hasn't been a classic comedy album since Bill Hicks. Both the standard bearer of '90s standup, Jerry Seinfeld, and Los Angeles' vital alternative comedy scene of the '90s failed to produce an album of note, so it then seemed like the comedy album was dead and buried in 2002. Then, David Cross -- best known as the "David" of the brilliant Mr. Show With Bob & David, the greatest sketch comedy show in history -- did a whirlwind tour of rock clubs in the spring of 2002, releasing highlights from the tour (culled mainly from Portland and Atlanta dates) as the Shut Up You F***ing Baby! album on Sub Pop that fall. It would be hyperbole to say that it revitalizes the genre -- one album can't do that, and it's doubtful that anybody else would be given the freedom Cross was accorded here -- but it is no stretch to say that it's one of the greatest albums in recorded comedy history. Cross' genius is that he not only fearlessly tackles political, social, and religious issues that his contemporaries dance around, he also eases from stinging satire to absurdity during the course of narratives that seemingly ramble but always wind back to their main theme. When everybody else treats George W. Bush with kid gloves, Cross tears into him with savage humor and logic, dissecting everything from the war on terrorism and Bush's reaction to 9-11 ("Nader would have f***ing bombed Afghanistan...What did we expect he was gonna do? The planes hit and he's gonna hole up in a Motel 8 with a bottle of Jack, just crying in a corner?") to his family history, the $300 tax refund and position on SDI, not just cracking jokes, but cutting to the political quick the way no pundit has had the guts to do. The Catholic Church and John Ashcroft are subject to similar rants, but the key isn't that Cross is preaching to the converted or just reciting "liberal" lines -- he offers biting, informed criticism that only a comedian could possibly deliver. It's not all religion and politics, though: just as funny are Cross' reading of a story from the Promise Keepers handbook, recounting a night of debauchery with Harlow, and exposing the absurdities in Cosi's marketing plan for Squaggels, their square bagel. It's standup at its finest -- fierce, angry, freewheeling, and hysterically funny. The recording is so good it's just icing on the cake that the packaging is a wonderful knowing parody: none of the song titles have anything to do with the routine at hand, they're either send-ups of comedy warhorses ("Sex on the Internet!?," "My Wife's Crazy!") or cheerfully vulgar parodies ("Shaving the Pope's Pussy," "Abortion Doctor From Hell!"), while the acknowledgements include "First of all thanks to God, for giving me a voice with which to sing. God, you are brave, bold and beautiful and, I don't even believe in you! Your ways truly are mysterious." It all adds up to a wonderful comedy record, the best in years, and one of the best showcases of a genius comic at the top of his game.