Additional personnel: Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman.
Michael Showalter was nothing but sharp and funny with the surreal comedy groups the State and Stella, but then his romantic comedy The Baxter had half of his fans thinking "charming" while the other half thought "pukey." Some of the best moments on his debut comedy album are truly vulgar and trashy, so this isn't the charming Baxter, but it shares that film's pacing problems and likewise wears its smartness on its sleeve. If this were up to Stella's standards, that latter complaint would be more tolerable. Problem is, Showalter comes off as smug during his lazy and meandering standup act, recorded live in front of an audience that often doesn't connect with the comedian. While this smirky half of the album does contain one of the greatest moments -- when the comedian interacts with an audience member who brought a real live cat to the show -- most of the highlights are the sketches and musical numbers recorded in the studio with Showalter's band the Dollies. Whistling along with "Erotica" -- a song where adventure travel and pornography meet -- is great fun and "The Mountain" is a six-and-a-half minute epic rich with wit. In the end, Sandwiches & Cats is a good album that should give Stella fanatics a fix, but it's not the great album Showalter could undoubtedly deliver if he were on his game. ~ David Jeffries