A selection of brief reviews of stand up specials which can be found on Netflix and NextUp.
Sarah Silverman – A Speck of Dust – I’m a big fan of Sarah’s, Jesus Is Magic is one of my favourite stand up shows and I’m really fond of The Sarah Silverman Program as well, but I have to admit I was struggling with her repetitive style recently, the “White Jewish Princess Says Something Shocking” persona was starting to get a tad old. Which is why I’m pleased that her new special sees her really developing as a comedian, here she’s telling personal tales and it’s much more affecting and effective, for the first time it feels like it’s the real Sarah Silverman talking rather than an exaggerated version. And of course most importantly, it made me laugh a great deal, and hard too, so even if you’ve never had much time for her I’d recommend checking this out.
Norm MacDonald – Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery – Much stronger than his last special, “Me Doing Standup” (which began well but ended with some really hacky gay pride jokes) and I’m surprised to hear he was disappointed by it as I really, really enjoyed it and it made me laugh a lot. It kind of runs out of steam a little by the end but otherwise I’ve no complaints.
Bridget Christie – A Bic For Her – A superb hour of comedy, I’m a big fan of hers and it’s very funny stuff, as well as thought provoking and intelligent, and proves that Christie is one of the best comics in the business. A show I wish I’d caught live, and if she ever performs it again I’d go despite having seen it already.
Chris Gethard – Career Suicide – It’s weird, I don’t quite connect with Gethard but I do find him really quite funny and his stories very interesting. The mental health stuff echoes a lot of my own experiences (though I’ve never suffered quite as much as he has, somewhat fortunately), and his pro-medication material especially chimed with me. But there are times he makes me squirm a little, like when he sings snippets of The Smiths songs (and his love for Morrissey in general is a bit painful given how the man acts these days), or says something which is meant to be profound but seems a bit obvious to me. Still, it does have an important message about how to help people with suicidal impulses, and is a fascinating piece and one I think a lot of people without in depth knowledge of mental health issues would benefit from watching.
The Lucas Brothers – On Drugs – A bit self indulgent but funny in places. Sometimes it feels like they only care about making each other laugh which’d be fine if the material was better. This is probably overly negative because when they’re good they’re great, it’s just frustrating they’re not more consistent.
Mike Birbiglia – What I Should Have Said Is Nothing – I enjoyed this a fair deal, it takes a little while to get going but from about twenty minutes onwards there’s a great selection of anecdotes which are consistently funny.
Anjelah Johnson – Not Fancy – It’s not particularly amazing but Johnson has a reasonably high gag rate and after a slightly shaky start it amused throughout, at least until the end. Unfortunately the last ten minutes is a follow up to a routines of hers which went viral on youtube, which the audience were clearly well aware of, but I wasn’t and due to a lack of exposition I didn’t find much of it funny. So if you plan to watch it I’d recommend viewing this clip first: https://youtu.be/baDJ-ZIvYy0?t=266 – even though it isn’t actually that great and not representative of most of the material in her netflix special.
Katherine Ryan – In Trouble – I’ve been really harsh about Katherine in the past due to finding her quite annoying on Taskmaster, and a short clip from Live At The Apollo which seemed horribly bland, but thought it only fair to give her a proper shot and to my surprise I enjoyed it an awful lot. It’s an impressively tight set, the majority of the jokes are really strong, and it made me laugh out loud a considerable amount. So I’d definitely recommend this to all.
Neal Brennan – 3 Mics – A mix of general stand up, emotional personal stories and one liners, I really liked it bar that I’m not sure there was a need for the fairly weak one liners when the rest of his material is so strong. But I guess 2 Mics would have sounded less intriguing and thankfully they’re a very minor aspect of the show.
Doug Stanhope – No Place Like Home – I’m very fond of this special, if I was to be pedantic the first half is slightly stronger than the second but it made me laugh throughout. I liked the brief bit of optimism at the end as well, and would like to see Stanhope explore that area a little more in the future.
TJ Miller – Meticulously Ridiculous – Quite funny in places and I found it pretty likeable, the first half is fairly conventional but the second is more absurdist and both worked well for me. It’s nothing to get to excited about admittedly, but it’s solid piece helped by Miller being more self-deprecating than I thought he’d be.
Tom Ward’s “Sex, Snails and Cassette Tapes” – Full disclosure time, I used to know Tom fairly well a while back and sometimes gigged with him at the same open mic nights, though it’s about a year since I last saw him live. But I genuinely enjoyed this a lot, it’s pleasingly daft and filled with some inventive material, and is definitely worth checking out. On the downside the camera work’s a little shaky on occasion, and it’s only 25 minutes long and so not the full Edinburgh show which was a bit disappointing, but this shouldn’t put anyone off as it’s a great set in general.
Alasdair Beckett-King – The Alasdair Beckett-King Mysteries – One of the best things on NextUp, Alasdair comes across as extremely likeable and extremely funny during this set which made me laugh a lot. It’s original, smart material and not the sort of thing you’ll see anywhere else, which is incredibly rare in this game.
Jordan Brookes “The Making Of” – I’d seen Jordan do twenty minutes earlier on in the year so had high hopes for this as I’d really loved his material then. Thankfully in his debut hour long show he’s really all a bit superb and it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s a tiny bit slow at the beginning but that works as an introduction for the audience to what is an increasingly and pleasingly weird show, and one which is packed with big laughs. The only downside is that the picture quality is quite poor, it looks like it’s recorded on video at times, and the colour is very drained. Still it doesn’t spoil the show in any way, and that’s the main thing.
Richard Todd – Takes a little while to get going and then is really strong for about fifteen minutes. Then there’s a slightly weak middle section before it returns to being very funny again. Todd’s an engaging comic and one I hope to see a lot more of in the future.
Ben Target – I knew nothing about Ben but I liked this a fair bit. It’s daft, silly and often prop based, and whilst not everything lands he’s a charismatic comic who’s never far away from an amusing moment, and now someone I definitely plan to see live.
Eleanor Morton – A great set where Eleanor talks about her anxiety and various other mental health issues. It’s clearly a debut show and I’m not sure it needs the songs but she shows a lot of promise, and whilst it’s recorded in front of a tiny crowd they often laugh hard, and understandably so.
Fern Brady – Male Comedienne – Starts with two fairly okay but slightly bland jokes and I couldn’t help but fear this would be a case of a show filmed before the comedian’s really ready for it. Then she launches far more confidently in to fifty minutes of great material, a mix of jokes about mental illness, people thinking she’s a man, twitter’s reaction to her appearance on a panel show, and her career as a stripper, and it feels like watching a different comedian, and she proved me completely wrong.
Danielle Ward – Seventeen – A mix of anecdotes of when she was that age and advice she’d give seventeen year old’s now. It might start a little slowly but it quickly becomes very funny, my favourite parts being her Sting anecdote, how she was once a Suede fan, and the dishwasher allegory. It’s damned impressive overall, and this has superseded Fern Brady as the best thing I’ve seen on the site so far.