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Music Review

Puns and games with Mr. Napkin

Rapping comedian comes back to Boston to celebrate new disc

MC Mr. Napkins followed comedians and his musical collaborator with a set that ranged from “F-Bombs’’ to “Geography Trivia.’’ MC Mr. Napkins followed comedians and his musical collaborator with a set that ranged from “F-Bombs’’ to “Geography Trivia.’’ (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / January 4, 2011

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‘Is there a baby in here somewhere?,’’ asked MC Mr. Napkins very near the start of his CD-release party on Saturday, and a parent immediately held the 3-month-old aloft, “Lion King’’-style, for everyone in a packed Club Passim to see. That eager generosity of spirit — they were, after all, offering up their child to a comedian, if only metaphorically — fueled a playful, zero-pressure homecoming for the recent Boston-to-LA transplant.

After the quick introduction and baby-check, Napkins (whose mother knows him as Zach Sherwin) let fifth-place “Last Comic Standing’’ contestant Myq Kaplan start things off proper. Kaplan often zeroed in on logical and syntactical traps in language, and he came back a few times to his insistence on continuing to talk after his jokes had already ended. Both tactics allowed him to claw his way out of holes that he enthusiastically dug himself, which was the implicit punch line of his entire act.

Kelly MacFarland, on the other hand, carried herself with a demeanor that was quizzical but smart, not to mention cynically confident in her dislikes. Perhaps inspired by the baby in attendance, children topped her list; she kept referring to them as “it’’ and “those.’’ She also was the most willing to directly engage the audience, assuring a female patron that she wasn’t hitting on her male companion by simply saying hi: “I don’t have moves. That was my move: ‘Hello, sir.’ ’’

Ken Reid, a friend coaxed by Napkins to do a few minutes despite actually just coming to watch the show, briefly reminisced about scarring childhood tales of family pantslessness and canine urination. Napkins’s musical collaborator Upryz then spun a few beats while playing around with vocal samples recorded before the show by audience members.

Napkins took the stage next with the easygoing warmth of someone performing for a roomful of good friends. As a rapping comedian, rather than a comedy rapper, he was smart enough to use his verses simply as a structure for joke delivery, rather than insist on adopting an exaggerated persona. A few songs were long fuses leading to masterfully ridiculous payoffs, as with a triple-pun pumpkin-carving tale and the profanity-replacement second verse of “F-Bombs.’’

Largely, though, Napkins’s concerns centered around the music he grew up with, including an extended riff on a single throwaway pronunciation in a Big Pun song, and more straightforwardly nerdish pursuits like math riddles. The two came together in “Geography Trivia,’’ in which Biggie Smalls’s legendary cry of “Where Brooklyn at?’’ prompted a beat-laden quiz on topics such as which five countries’ names end in L. The crowd gamely played along and probably learned something in the process.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at officialmarc@gmail.com.

MC MR. NAPKINS CD RELEASE PARTY

With Myq Kaplan, Kelly MacFarland, Ken Reid, and Upryz

At: Club Passim, Saturday