George Carlin – Complaints and Grievances

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I was never that into Carlin, but he’s a classic comedy that you kind of have to know if you’re going to do stand up comedy. I watched his special where he’s in New Jersey, and mentioned it to a friend, who said that complaints and Grievances was his favorite Carlin special.

One of my favorite comedy specials ever is Paula Poundstone’s Cat, Cops and Things. She is obviously influenced by Carlin. Not in the fact that he’s kind of rambling, but in the soft way they’ll deliver some of their punchlines. It kind of sounds like their ending the punchline like a question. “Because by now it is a fire,” it’s a strange way to talk, that does just make everything so much more hilarious to me.

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Gary Gulman – Boyish Man

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This special opens with a quick “please put your hands together for Gary Gulman” and then a long shot of the audience clapping and giving Gulman a standing ovation. I wouldn’t want that for my stand up special, but okay. As a person watching this, I’m like, ‘man he hasn’t done anything and he’s already got a standing ovation– this crowd is buttered up’. This is Gulman’s first filmed special for tv, and a follow up to his album “Conversations with Inanimate Objects”. Gulman wears casual jeans with tears in them, as was the style back then, and a crisp blue striped shirt.

Most of the first part of the special is dedicated to food and snacks in various ways. Gulman starts with a joke about Hanukkah, and transitions into talking about figgy pudding via bringing up the carol where with the lyrics “bring us some figgy pudding” Gulman wryly points out how demanding this is. Then goes to break down cookies. He talks about how the girl scouts don’t let everyone in, and then goes on a long ramble about the oreo. This string of jokes shows off how dedicated Gulman is making smooth transitions in his comedy. He’s able to spring from one topic to another without losing energy or it becoming a thing to notice.

This special has a joke about people asking Gulman about the milkman because he is so much taller than his parents. This is a classic Gulman bit. He talks about how he doesn’t like when people question his mother’s fidelity with antiquated jobs. There is also a quick joke about Humpty Dumpty, which is expanded on in later specials, and a quick joke about Rocky which is expanded in the special “in this economy”. A lot of this special is good ideas without the payoff of the punchlines he wrote later in his career.

I don’t think this is Gulman’s best special– it pales in comparison to In this Economy. Gulman isn’t the most punchy of comics, but he presents a ton of observations in a single joke that are immediately relatable to most people. It’s strange, nowadays you can go online and find a bunch of albums from comics just starting where they do have to win over the audience. Where people won’t laugh at something that is funny, and they won’t clap at anything. It’s just a comic’s set and some things hit and some things miss. This is an early Gulman special, just his second really- and the audience is on his side for all of it. I want to see Gulman have to win over an audience. To do what comics have to do.

Eddie Pepitone – For the Masses

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I have never heard of Eddie Pepitone before seeing a fellow comic make a post about how great this special is on Facebook. I have amazon, which this special is free on, and I wanted to watch something new, so here I am. And I agree with that Facebook comment, this was an unexpectedly great comedy special.

Eddie Pepitone is an older man, with a mangled set of teeth in his mouth. He has not been given a comedy special based on his marketability. He’s old, he’s overweight, he’s ugly, and his comedy isn’t’ the kind of easy to get into stuff that a Kevin Hart type can give. He’s angry and jarring and makes offhand comments about Dostoevsky. He makes fun of the middle states while complaining about the freeways of LA. On the stage behind him there are books scattered about. This is a semi-traditional look, that makes the special background feel kind of efforted to me. Did those books come from Eddie Pepitone? Are they just books by the yard thrown in the back to show off the vibe that Pepitone wants to give? Are they books that the theatre has for these special comedy moments? Maybe Pepitone requires a large amount of books to be placed behind wherever he performs comedy. That would be an annoying hassle.

Pepitone’s delivery is the work of a master. He goes from being angry and yelling to undercutting it with a passive calm voice. It’s great, immediately it’s unexpected, but the consistent ramping up and instant lower of the voice adds so much depth to the special. He’s angry, we all are, but he’s also thoughtful. His jokes go off into unexpected directions. He has a joke about how he supports the Me Too movement, because he wants people to stop propositioning him after shows. He tells a joke about his wife falling in love with him after he read a poem under her window, and then reads a Bukoski poem at full volume “THE FUCKING POST OFFICE IS A NIGHTMARE. I read that under her window and she was mine”

One of my favorite jokes has Pepitone saying that he wishes that Trump would just come out in Joker makeup, and slit his mouth like the Joker. That it would make more sense. Then he does, in a small Joker impression “Isn’t Betsy DeVos, wonderful, (Joker Laugh),” this line had hysterics. It’s the delivery where he does just the smallest impression, along with the inner anger of the content of the joke.

This is one of the best specials of the year. I haven’t heard Pepitone before but his delivery is masterful. He’s able to undercut himself without reducing his points. He feels so human on stage. The struggle he presents, of his internal debating, is so vividly and colorfully realized that you can’t help but to relate to some aspect of it.

For some reason there is a lot of technical information available about this special from the director and the cinematographer. It was shot with 6 cameras. You don’t usually get these kinds of details. It’d be nice to know what their sound system was.

Five out of Five

Jimmy Yang – Good Deal

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Jimmy Yang is known for his role on Silicon Valley. I read his book a while back, and was not impressed. But I did end up having to buy it, because my dog ate it, (it was a library book–my dog wasn’t loose in a Target). Why couldn’t my dog eat a Simon Rich book? I also found his character on Silicon Valley to be one of the least interesting parts of the show. That’s not necessarily anything to do with him, just that the writer’s don’t give him much to do, and it’s hard to upstage TJ Miller, which is his character on the show plays off of. This special looks interesting with vertical glowing lines. Yang is dressed simply, but nicely. He has the vibe of a nerdy guy who listens to rap to the horror of his parents, but is still good enough to get decent grades. This juxtaposes against the harsh word choice of many of his jokes where he allows himself to be dirty. But his delivery doesn’t work with this, he does not have a delivery style that plays with how he looks.

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Gary Gulman – In This Economy

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Gary Gulman In This Economy was one of the first comedy specials I remember watching. It was on Netflix early when it had first started it’s digital service. This special opens with just an announcer going “Gary Gulman” and then he starts his set. BAM! Quick! There is a very short animation that lasts about a second. There is no long sketch that sets up the special, no documentary thing, just BAM start. Just going into comedy. Gulman immediately gets to one of his best jokes, about blockbuster. This joke was so successful that it kind of permeated culture. People who don’t know that joke reference that joke. There is a lot to this joke– including the title drop– “In this economy it should be illegal not to be watching something.” This is also where Gulman talks about watching documentaries– saying that he believes that Netflix thinks his genre in animal cruelty. I remember so much of the ideas of this special, without remembering the actual jokes he made.

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Nate Bargatze – Full Time Magic

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Full Time Magic is Nate Bargatze’s second special, and it’s on the Comedy Central channel on Amazon. Yelled at by a Clown was his first album, and it was full of great autobiographical stories where Bargatze takes a silly flabbergasted take on an otherwise non-offensive idea. Bargatze had a great 2019 with a Netflix special, and this shows some of his roots.

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Dave Attell – Road Work

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I know Dave Attell from his Netflix show Bumping Mics. I’m aware that he’s been on some of the Roast shows before, and that he’s been doing comedy for a long time, but I was never seen him in much. This special is on Comedy Central’s Amazon Prime channel, and I decided to give it a go, because Bumping Mics is great. First things first though, good god the artwork for this is ugly as sin. Incredibly ugly. It’s just a stock picture of a road with some hockey font. Did he make this in paint? But it’s not the comedy. This special is also unique because it’s various different clubs. He’ll do about ten minutes and then it’ll move to another spot. This gives us the highlights of Attell’s loose style.

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Joel McHale – Live from Pyongyang

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Joel McHale definitely has more than a million dollars right? I mean there are a handful of jokes in this show that makes you think that. So I guess I’m good at writing less than stellar writing on this one. I didn’t enjoy Live from Pyongyang. I saw Joel McHale more than half a decade ago on the University of Kentucky’s campus, and remember being unimpressed, so I’m not totally unbiased. I don’t there is a ton of material here, and what is here is surface level comedy, or “Hey I remember when this funny thing happened.”

McHale stands in front of a green background, the kind of green my parents painted out in the living room. He’s real edgy like that. His hair is done up to make him look like a cartoon duck. The room feels pretty intimate and isn’t the usual theatre setting. Instead there looks to be tables and food available. He pops off the soft background, and green is relatively unused color for comedy specials.

Most of this special is just McHale recounting various shows he had good crowd work with. Look, we don’t want to hear about how you had a great comeback, we want to see that happen. If all these interactions happened, why doesn’t he just record more of his shows and make special that is just the best of those interactions, or at least post those as clips. Mostly, I think, it’s because they don’t happen. McHale tells that in Oklahoma he encounters a rowdy wounded vet who won’t stop talking during his show, and in Nashville the audience claps when he brings up that they were a slave state. These things don’t feel real. Maybe he had interaction like that with a wounded vet, but on stage? I don’t know. I do think this makes the special’s name into a joke. The special is shot in California, not Pyongyang, but him discussing all the various places he’s done comedy before led me to think that he was going to bring up international shows. This doesn’t happen. Part of why I watched this special is because I thought a special shot in an non-american city from an american stand up could be interesting. Sigh.

Later in the set, McHale discusses a time he was interviewed in LA, and the interviewer mistook him for Daniel Tosh. I think recognizing the similarities between the is essential for his special, as Tosh is more famous. But once again, he does it with a story that is performed as if it is grounded in reality but lacks the logic of reality. The funniest part of this story is that he admits that people mistake him for Daniel Tosh. That jokes shouldn’t take more than a moment to tell, and you’ve heard other comics tell at the top of their sets with a self deprecating quickness that moves things along to their jokes. Here, it’s treated as a main joke. In fact it’s one of the jokes they use during the trailer. You see other comics make jokes like to get people used to them, not as the best joke of the set.

McHale does a flair for swift word choices and has consistent delivery. He comes off as sarcastic but considerably less mean than Tosh. He is enthusiastic and able to switch from emotional beats with quickness. He is fine, even good at performing his comedy, but his idea on what is funny to listen to for an hour needs refinement. If he gave us more stories about his family this special would work better for me.

All in all it just doesn’t feel like there is much material in this special. A lot of stories about things that did happen, or that he said happened, which he uses to voice his judgemental views on geographies outside of LA. For me, it’s exhausting to hear him mostly talk down about places for a full hour, without embracing anything other than his children.

Jayde Adams expresses the intricacies of compassion on “Serious Black Jumper”

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Jayde Adams doesn’t come off as a stand up comedian when she starts this special, as her first few jokes involves projecting images, and she’s wearing a small mic that looks more in place at a business conference than a comedy club. Despite all this Adams proves that she is hilarious and has a lot to say.

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