John Mulaney – The Comeback Kid

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This is John Mulaney’s second recorded special. It starts with a few overshots of New York, and then we see him address his dog Petunia in the dressing room. The dog speaks to him in a silly voice. This special came out in 2015, and I wasn’t a huge stand up comedy fan back then. I was in college and only ever went to stand up comedy that happened on campus, but I would watch a ton of comedy on Netflix. I wish I could go back and see what was on Netflix in 2015, because I know I watched John Mulaney, Gary Gulman and Eugene Mirman, but who did I not watch? Did they have specials more like Bert Kirshner or Joe Rogan?

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Hannibal Buress – Comedy Camisado

This Hannibal Buress’s most recent special, aside from the Edinburgh one, which doesn’t have much material in it. Buress wears a casual outfit, a short sleeve button up and a nice pair of jeans. He’s in a theatre that holds at least 500, but Buress could probably do a bigger show if he wanted. The backdrop is a blue curtain and there are two chandlers on each side of him. It’s a pretty basic set up, but it’s nice.

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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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Ramy Youssef – Feelings

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Ramy Youssef was unknown to me before getting his show and this special. The most striking part of this special is how it looks. The building is the Chicago Cultural Center. It is gorgeous and unique for a stand up special. The color pallete is soft oranges, tans and browns. It’s very welcoming. The camera will often frame Youssef from the side. The camera is always moving slowly, inching towards the audience to closing in on Youssef. This adds a sense of progression that is reflected in Youssef’s jokes. I see these stand up specials, like this one and Crensaw’s which was shot in a school, and it’s like, why would you ever shoot your stand up special in a theatre. This is so much more beautiful, interesting and it engages with what Youssef is about. But past the look of the special, it doesn’t showcase truly hard hitting jokes.

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Mark Normand – Out to Lunch

Mark Normand is a younger guy who is quickly growing popular. maxresdefault (2)It’s a little bit surprising Netflix wouldn’t tap him for a special, especially considering the difficulty that COVID19 surely will present to filming a new comedy special. Normand is one of the more popular comics that appeal to the younger guy demographic– he’s a lot like Sam Moril, but he’s a little bit edgier and darker. More willing to have jokes about race and gender.

I saw most of this special performed live in the fall at Helium in Indianapolis. It was less refined, but it was good. It’s always interesting to see a comic do his set at a club, and then watch it as a special. I think Normand and Moril both have a quality of being better recorded than live. I’ve only seen him once live though, so I’m not an expert, but his jokes are written carefully– he never feels in the moment during this set. It’s nice to be able to pause or rewind to during Normand’s special. It’s not a bad quality, but if you juxtapose him against Dave Ross, his comedy feels more performed than lived in. It makes his jokes pointedly sharp. But when he does moments of crowd work, asking if there are any gay men, and then if there are any lesbians. This feels so scripted, becuase it is, and for me took me out of the live performance– partly because I am a lesbian and hate being asked to clap in this context.

The special looks nice, especially for something on youtube. The lighting isn’t distracting and it feels like it’s up to the quality of a Comedy Central special. In the background there is a screen with the word “Comedy!” on it. This is a silly little addiction that reminds you constantly, that this is a comedy special that feel very in place.

Normand always has good jokes, and if you are a dude, or even if you are just straight they will probably resonate more with you than do for me. I can appreciate the wit that his punchlines have, but he lives in a world much different than me. One of his jokes is about how a woman will never let himself be seen in the bathroom– ehh, not my experience. Another is about the a girl will try to get a guy to stay the night after sex. Because I’m not on either side of this, it doesn’t hit like something familiar. In a lot of ways Mark Normand’s jokes are like the polar opposite of Mitski’s lyrics.

One of my favorite jokes was where Normand said it should be fine to call a midget a midget, and that little person is like an o’douls. I love this joke, and really enjoy most of the jokes Normand has on topics outside of his relationships with women. I understand that this isn’t a huge opinion and that most people who like Normand are probably like, YES HE GETS IT!

Overall this is a nice special from Mark Normand. It’s interesting to see more comics put out specials on Youtube; either through Comedy Central like Emliy Heller’s Ice Thickeners or through their own means. Surely Normand will make a nice amount of money on the Youtube revenue and gain a ton of younger fans via this strategy.

Hannibal Buress – Animal Furnace

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I love Hannibal Buress. He exudes chill. He’s hilarious mostly because of his laid back delivery and tight joke writing. I recently watched all four seasons of the Eric Andre show, and he’s a blessing to it. Honestly one of my favorite episodes was the Hannibal Buress show episode– the line “Are you a boat or not!” is one of my favorites from that show. Like Eric Andre is great and so high energy, but Buress has the jokes. Buress is this generation’s Mitch Hedberg, in style and delivery. He doesn’t seem to break down as much as Hedberg though.

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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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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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Aziz Ansair – Right Now


I haven’t found Aziz Ansari to be particularly funny in the past. He dances around stage and makes loud, zany noises that make him easy to mock and do impressions of. Rather than being hilarious, he sounds hilarious. I don’t find this to be particularly funny or remarkable, and I am not a fan of this kind of stand up that Ansari has switched to. He speaks softly to the point where there are lines you physically cannot hear. He claims a position of vulnerability that is transparently banal. This special comes off to me as more of a light essay that exists in resistance to thinkpieces rather than to make folks laugh.

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Michelle Wolf – Joke Show

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I saw Michelle Wolf at the Comedy Cellar in New York City. I had not seen her live before, and I had only seen the video of her White House Correspondents’ Dinner set. At the Comedy Cellar, she went last in the lineup and was by far the best comic of the night and the only comic who was getting consistent, quality laughs. The material she did that night is on this special and it’s some of the best stand-up I’ve heard this year.

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