The Floor Is Lava is Gina Brillon’s third comedy special, which you might have been able to guess as it’s an assured creation and delivered in a nicely confident manner. It’s also a mostly pretty damn funny special too, and what impresses the most is that she tackles a number of subjects which are well trodden and which many a comedian has joked about before, including dating, marriage and her heritage, but frequently manages to bring a fresh perspective to it, bar the odd exception.
Opening with a segment on her love for New York city and how she grew up in the Bronx, the first part is a little scattershot as she leaps from subject to subject, but it’s largely pretty funny and doesn’t suffer from this, and throughout she has some killer lines including one where when she discusses what to call a trash man / person, and responds to the idea that someone picks up trash for a living with the joke “You’re an Uber driver?”. There’s also some strong material concerning her being from the Bronx, and how sometimes even the way she says “Good Morning” leads people to wanting to call the police, and she concludes with “I’m not dangerous but I will be the scariest person in Canada” which made me more than chuckle.
The set settles down after this as she talks about her husband, referring to the fact that she got a good one, “A 1978 Caucasian”, and that her husband loves the fact that he’s married “A sassy Latino”. Some very funny (and deserved) mockery of white people follows, especially the richer variety, and this is mostly laugh out loud material, though oddly there’s the occasional weaker gag, with her suggestion that “Garnish, ain’t that a Hindu god” leading to the first wince of the special. Fortunately such dodgy bits of word play are few and far between and she’s on much firmer ground when talking about her childhood, how poor she was and that she had to play games like “The Floor Is Lava”, with this segment containing some great material about rich people “appropriating broke culture”, but also that her parents worked hard so that they weren’t always poor, though her father’s decision to buy a boat confused her, leading to one of the funniest lines as she says “We lived in the South Bronx…Where shall we sail papa?”
Brillon continues to entertain as she talks about her education, and that no one is taught to be a good parent, and there’s another great joke about how kids are often given an egg to look after but in the Bronx “We just brought our actual babies”. Unfortunately there’s then a minor dip as she discusses learning another language, and does an impression of a Cockney that’s so cliched and weak that Dick Van Dyke would cringe, there’s mileage in the idea but she doesn’t doesn’t develop it or take it in any interesting directions. Alas a section on food is equally uneven, there’s an amazing line about how when she sees her favourite pack of gummy bears in a shop “I gasped like I saw a celebrity”, but it follows with some really average gags about being a vegan where she’s supposedly “succeeding on instagram”, and worst of all is a part where her Mother doesn’t understand veganism and asks “What, even chicken?”, for the first time the set devolves in to open mic territory and it’s a surprise she relies on such lazy jokes.
More material about being Latino comes after this and thankfully it’s a lot better, with a bit about arguments at thanksgiving being something she looks forward to working well and the comment “Round 2. Finish him” made me laugh a lot, as did her routine on telenovelas and the difference between American tv and Latino tv. Alas once again the quality dips though as she talks about dating, it’s a tired old subject and then some and Brillon brings nothing new to the party here.
Fortunately she returns to form when she talks about how she met her husband in the strongest part of the set, as she speaks about how she cyberstalked him and then had to pretend she didn’t know anything about him, and best of is a segment all about how women do creepy stuff too, like going through the draws of the men she’s dating, and how unlike men “A woman will see red flags and she’s like ooh, a project”. And equally as entertaining is a routine about her wedding, their writing vows and how she doesn’t know how to express herself and would have been happy with a chest bump.
Brillon really is on great form when talking about her marriage and in many ways it made me wish it had been a larger aspect of the set, as when she discusses how her husband leaves clothes on the floor “as if he was raptured out of our apartment” and questions “Were you never beaten as a child for this?” it’s hilarious stuff, as are her thoughts about life in New York and being overheard by neighbours – which is why after they make love she high fives the wall.
I can’t help but feel that Brillon should have ended the show on this as it’s by far the best and most consistently funny element of her set, and also because the actual ending is a bit all over the place. She talks briefly about getting a massage and how the whole time she’s thinking “Don’t fart, don’t fart”, and though better are comments about her therapist and her abandonment issues when he goes on holiday, there’s a really weak gag concerning respecting boundaries, and then it ends with some seemingly random thoughts about internet haters before we’re given an impassioned speech about her wanting to inspire others from her background to become comedians, which is a fantastic sentiment for sure but it feels a bit odd that she doesn’t even try to end the show with a funny line.
It’s frustrating because most of the time Brillon’s an engaging, charming comedian who has a lot of strong material, and though this special has a few too many moments which are a bit uneven the majority of it works extremely effectively, and if it had been tightened up a little and a couple of the lazier gags were thrown out this could have been four or even five star rated viewing. And hopefully that will be the case in the future as she’s clearly got a great comedy brain, and if she avoids the slightly hackier topics she could develop in to the kind of comedian whose each and every special is essential viewing.