Taylor Tomlinson – Quarter-life crisis

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Taylor Tomlinson has been around for a while. She’ll come to the midwest with some frequency. It surprised me to see that she got a Netflix special, not because she’s bad or anything– she’s just young and less established than others who do. I mean Marc Maron and Tom Segura are the other people who have Netflix specials coming out around the same time. I think I have a notebook somewhere where someone said that I might be able to book her for a few hundred dollars. I’m sure that has changed by now though.

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Hannah Gadsby – Douglas

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Last year Hannah Gadsby put out Nanette, which caused a lot of people to take to facebook to say if they think it’s funny or not. It was good, it was different, and it was queer. Stand up comedy in other countries is less laugh per minute based, and more ideas based. On the stage there is a dog made of crayons. Gadsby comments on how pointless it is. Patton Oswalt also noted that the stage was made specifically by Netflix. It seems that Netflix wants comics to note a specific thing on stage– and like what nonsense focus group did that come out of? But alas we have a dog made out of crayons.

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Patton Oswalt – I Love Everything

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Patton Oswalt has a new netflix special out– Oswalt is a very marketable guy, he has enough ‘weirdness’ for your kids but he’s not so wacky that you couldn’t watch him with your parents– or in the case of this special– your grandparents. I watched most of this material be performed last fall– when Oswalt came to Louisville. I got free tickets via the old comedy club owners. I was unimpressed by the live performance– but the crowd wasn’t (he got a standing ovation). It’s very easy for superstars to get a standing ovation– but if you haven’t been in a pixar movie, it’s close to impossible. Most of the material is the same from that live performance. While I recognize all the jokes from the live performance, I didn’t remember any of them before watching the special. Like before watching the special if you had asked me– “What jokes did Oswalt do last fall?” I would say “uhh, I don’t know but the opener was real bad.”

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Jerry Seinfeld – 23 Hours to Kill

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Jerry Seinfeld is a living comedy legend and he has a new comedy special out! Where could you even see Seinfled doing stand up before this? Was there a big tour that he went on– selling out theatres all round the country before filming something for everyone? He starts his special with: “If you were me, would you be up here hacking out another one of these?” Yes. I would hope so. “This could be my favorite spot in the entire world right here” but does it show? Regardless of his professed love, do we still laugh at him as if he were a top dog?

Seinfeld starts the special by jumping off a helicopter into a random body of water. It is a reference to the James Bond title. Seinfeld dresses in a nice suit. He dresses like a classic– Black suit with black tie, black shoes. The background is a simple blue curtain, and the audience is large.

His first joke is about going out with friends and how terrible that experience is. God. Well there is no way he could have known. He talks about how it’s a nightmare to go out, to decide and plan an evening. Well, I don’t know who this is for in this current moment. Maybe last year that would truly hit with most people, but today it sucks to hear. In addition to the aspect that no one is able to go out currently, I also think Mulaney expresses this idea in a funnier quicker way in this joke.

Another long joke revolves around Seinfeld’s opinions about phones. It’s a very old guy dealing with technological innovation, but he’s good at it. “A lot of people are texting just the K, leaving the O out, what microfracture of a lifetime are you saving” Seinfeld shows his ability to express through his face in these jokes, as his distaste for phones are expressed by just the way he’s able pull his face back in distest of an idea he expresses. “These old people phones, two button, your kid– ambulance”

An interesting aspect about this special is how Seinfeld reacts to the audience that wants to yell. Multiple times throughout the special there is a strikingly loud laugh, or a man who doesn’t fight the desire to yell something out. He either asks them to get with the rest of the audience or simply ignores them. It’s strange, and not a thing you see in other comedy specials by smaller comedians and Seinfeld handles it masterfully.

He talks about his life in the middle. Talks about getting married late, talks about getting older. He makes it a point to talk about himself, and rather than a stand up person, he talks like a celebrity. Like a person whose life you’ve followed. This part has him using the voice and tone we’ve come to associated most closely with Seinfeld, that over the top ness, the pettiness.

Seinfeld is a product of the 90s. A lot of that remains. The annoyance at his wife. That spousal interelationals. But it’s good stand up comedy– he has great little lines in this special. It’s just not the voice of the current generation– unless of course you do think a joke about how we’re all attached to our phones to be cutting edge.

Midnight Gospel

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Midnight Gospel is the newest Pendleton Ward show. He teams with up comedian Duncan Trussell to make something that is truly unique, and sparkles with intense creativity and bursts of color and texture. It has the wonderful color pallet and silliness of a cartoon like Adventure Time or even Flapjack, but combines that with serious intense spiritual conversations. It manages to not lower these conversations but to give us a space to truly, unpretentiously introduce ourselves to these ideas. “Opening your heart sucks,” like hell yeah, this show meets that idea and gives us space to think about it as philosophical concepts that impact our daily lives.

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Leslie Jones – Time Machine

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Leslie Jones was polarizing on SNL. Some found her to be one note, others including myself found her thought she was given little but did well at what she was given. Jones was the oldest SNL cast member at the time, and she had been doing stand up for decades by the time SNL picked her up. She had a firm voice, and knew who she was. This was great for some sketches, like the one where she has a relationship with Kyle Mooney, but it’s not the easiest to write for. Jones left SNL this year, and this is her second Netflix special. Jones wears a simple black shirt and black pants, with a knee brace. The backdrop is a simple blue curtain with blue backgrounds. This special has an overall idea that Jones comparing her past self with her current self.

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Pete Davidson – Alive from New York

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Pete Davidson has frequently been unimpressive, but people come to him anyway. I was disappointed by his first album, SMD, and found it to be jokes on mostly boring topics. I think his work on SNL is mostly bad– I don’t like Chad. His newest special “Alive from New York” is now on Netflix. He’s been traveling around with John Mulaney, who has seemingly given him some direction, but mostly he falls flat once more.

Davidson moves the stand a lot. He seems jittery. His movements are stiff, with sudden, seemingly random bursts of energy that he seems embarrassed by and wants to take away. The lighting of the special is sometimes distracting. There are a lot of lines. I really like the rug. It adds a sense of personality and heighted niceness.

Davidson has so much charm. He has that deep voice, and strange mix of confidence and self depiction that makes his energy endearing. But he can be very aggressive with crowds. There are endless stories of him going off on an audience member. There was a whole thing with him and having people put their phones in the bag, and signing contractors with audience to write about his jokes online, is another example. But people are attracted to him. He’s like Shane on the L word. I’m a lesbian, I’m sure straight women have a better example. He’s not elegant, he’s not wealthy, but genuinely always the coolest guy in the room. Hoenstly he is so endearing when he just smiles at his own, stupid joke. It’s just too bad that he doesn’t have the jokes to back that up with. Eddie Murphy on Delirious presented us with a man such charm to make him the also always the coolest in the room, but Murphy had the jokes. Murphy was funny, and good at stand up. Davidson lets us down by delivering all the hashed out jokes we’ve heard time and time again.

“I look like a divorced wife who just got it together” he mocks himself in an early joke. The architecture of a joke we’ve all heard so many times before. Then he goes on to tell a joke about how he thinks that in every gay group of dudes, there is one not-really-gay-guy. An idea I’ve heard everywhere. A joke you might hear at every open mic twenty years ago. “All power to ya, but it’s a lot of power” He says about gay men’s power in the current political climate. Sure, all the power. This joke is just so over told, that even his personal flourishes can’t bring it new life.

One of his next jokes is about making a joke about Dan Crenshaw. I did not catch this controversy, but it doesn’t matter as Davidson goes over it. I hate these kinds of jokes that are retelling of unfunny, and seemingly serious stories. Famous people bringing up what they have to address to get people to like them, and then not adding any depth. Then there are jokes about Ariana Grande. God I don’t care. They’re not great jokes. They’re petty, and they don’t tell the story. They just play off the story that we know from the internet.

But some of the special works. He has a joke about pausing the netflix special and getting laid. Here the cinematography really works for the joke, framing in the bottom left corner, his smile lights up the entire frame. His entire joke about Louis CK is great. He discusses how Louie CK didn’t like that Davidson smoked weed at SNL. It sets him up as likable and charming. But he never gives us anything of substance, and he doesn’t even try to. It’s frustrating to watch, because Davidson has so much potential, and does bring some much to stage. He’s so present and in the moment, and he does seem like such fun to be around if he’s into you. I want to see him take his writing seriously.

Aziz Ansari – Buried Alive

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This special is Aziz Ansari’s third special; it was filmed in the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia. It premiered on Netflix in 2013. Ansari gained a lot of fame from his character on Parks and Recreation, and his stand-up persona is very similar to the over-excitable Tom. Buried Alive clocks in a 80 minutes, making it a very long stand-up special.

It starts with Ansari in a car. A mellow song plays, and the camera shows him walking up onto stage. He high fives audience members. When he gets on stage he says that he doesn’t have anything prepared, and people laugh. He quickly says that he does have an act and launches into his first jokes. This makes him come off as an every man and very chill, but for stand-up fans, it is a trite joke that we’ve all heard multiple times before.

He then launches into some material about getting emails about his friends getting pregnant or having kids. This first chunk is structured around kids, and he transitions through his bits by explaining his different ideas on kids. These jokes establish his persona and how he delivers jokes. His voice modulates from very high-pitched to very low, often making a line more punchy just by saying it in a higher voice. Most of his ideas about children are very relatable, and I’ve heard other comics discuss these topics.

He then moves into material about MTV shows. He starts with some material about 16 and Pregnant, which now feels like obvious territory. He comes up with the idea of 25 and Pregnant, and he explains that there are some 25-year-olds who are just as worrisome when they announce their pregnancy. Showing what he imagines those kids lives like he states “The only good that happened this week is the guy ALMOST got a job at Arbys” Then he imagines 25 and Pregnant becoming a show about kids having expensive birthdays.

He talks about how he was a cute kid, and is amazed that he wasn’t molested. He does a pantomime about a nervous child molester. It does not really fit with his other comedic personalities. This joke might come across as uncomfortable for some, but for me it just feels trite. There are so many jokes about child molestation that this isn’t really a deep twist. Then he says that the audience feels bad for the child molester in the joke. It seems like there is a way to do that doesn’t assume the audience reaction. It’s frustrating to be told that your reaction is x, when it was not x. It’s frustrating that just he assumes the audience’s reaction instead of really listening to it.

Later on, he has a bit about how ghosts could be scary in a completely different way, in that they would text and do more Netflixing and binge-watching than anything else. I remember loving this joke back in the day when I watched it as a freshman in college. The ghost wouldn’t even bother to scare anyone because he’d be on Netflix or trying to get the wifi password. This is a silly premise that delivers wacky punchlines.

Ansari uses crowd work throughout his special and has the audience clap at certain questions. It always feels pointless, like he doesn’t get what the crowd’s role is. Even though I don’t like his jokes, he is good at performing, and he is able to do what he does perfectly. But I think he isn’t great at making the audience comfortable, or working with them to be part of the comedy. Overall, it feels like there is a lack of thought in this special. Ansari moves around a lot and is very performance-based. A lot of jokes rely entirely on his performance and have nothing to do with the writing. While Ansari presents a very specific performance that only he can pull off, it is too bad the jokes he is telling feel like the same old things we’ve all heard before.

The Two Popes

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This is a movie with great actors, and a great script, and intriguing idea, that is just lost to a failure of cinematography. If I could watch this movie with my eyes closed, I think it might be a better experience. I wouldn’t be distracted by the strange, distracting camera movements. This movie is about a conversation between two popes. I am not catholic and do not know very much about religion, but also I am not an idiot, so that is where I stand. I figure the Pope is just the president of their religion, so this all just an sub plot in House of Cards to me.

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John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch

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I’m not a child, you should be able to tell that by my ability to write these blogs and keep this going for more than three minutes. I can’t speak to how a child will enjoy this special, but for me, this is a fun, weird special of 2019. John Mulaney is showing off a different ability of his, that of being wholesome and able to appeal to children without being too much of a square. It is one of the best specials of 2019- John Mulaney is the best comic currently in the game.

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