The Comedy Lineup really pushes the idea that the word special needs to be far more exclusive and we need to start using the word “showcase” to take expectations down a notch.
|Writer(s)||Michelle Buteau, Ian Karmel, Taylor Tomlinson, Sam Jay, Phil Wang, Sabrina Jalees, Jak Knight, Tim Dillon|
Just turned 40, married for 7 years to a white man from the Netherlands and loving life, Buteau is like that comical best friend you had for years who finally got her behind on stage. For whether she is talking about the changes she has started to make at 40, like no more small talk and saying f*** buttons, she is all about comfort. Though, also with turning 40 comes a few other questions. Mostly why does she have friends? Like guys who come out so late in life as predators. Not the kind who tried something with her, but who don’t get you can’t just whip your penis out?
But the highlight of her set comes when she messes with the audience and the last 5 minutes. That’s when she hits her stride and that is when she focuses on her marriage. For while it isn’t clear what is Buteau’s ethnic background, she is a woman of color and being with a white guy, married to one, has been an experience. A lovely one, but an experience.
To be completely honest, until the last 6 or so minutes, I was just thankful this was only 15 minutes. For Buteau is funny, but she is annoying girl in your office funny. The loud one who has her moments, but there are many days you wish she would work from home. However, that was mostly when she was commenting on life at 40 and Hollywood open auditions and her trying to make a gag out of no one wanting to see a guy’s dick just because.
However, as noted, once she switched things up and started talking about her marriage? That is when she hit her stride and you could imagine her in something beyond this. Granted, in roles which would call for a Tiffany Haddish type, but not as costly, but the point is you wouldn’t mind seeing her pop up in other Netflix productions.
There is something about Karmel which is very familiar but slightly different. The familiarity comes from a lot of his routine coming off like something you heard before – but in a different way. Be it a fat guy who has to be self-deprecating for a laugh, who has troubles dating, and who has the kind of mother who may just be his best friend. In that, Karmel seems average. Not generic, but average since he switches things up slightly.
However, then he gets a bit weird and Karmel going weird is when he is at his best. For whether it is about when to talk about your fetishes or how creepy the word uncle is, when he makes that left turn he becomes someone you can enjoy. Though his mic drop moment is his Lion King joke which is unsettling yet also so hilarious that, if you are kind of twisted, you may find yourself giggling about for as long as he is doing the bit.
To be frank, until the Lion King bit I didn’t laugh at all. I thought he was kind of comical, but like with Buteau, there was this annoying co-worker vibe. The one who cracks jokes in the break room more than you ever see them at their desk. But, the difference with Karmel is that he took things to an awkward place a few times. Some of which led to home runs like the Lion King joke. Other times, his self-deprecation seemed juvenile or like a watered down version of another comic’s superior joke. Changed just enough so Karmel couldn’t be accused of being a thief.
With that said, I’d be cool if this was the first and last appearance of him. He seems nice, I can imagine him doing stints on a sitcom, but that’s about it. Oh, but props to the camera person and editing for making certain moments of his set more dramatic.
There is something about Tomlinson which will make you think she is a lead character, or comic relief, on an MTV show – when they did decent scripted programming for a year (let’s say 2011). The reason you’ll get that vibe is because there is this sort of Disney Channel star who grew up a little messed up but discovered being a little bit vulgar is fun feel. Not vulgar like talking about how she likes to be choked and told she is a fat and ugly whore – not that type of vulgar. Nor are we talking about the type of vulgar where bodily fluids are the gag. More so, the vulgar more conservative folks don’t like when you are a bit too raw with the truth.
Take for example Tomlinson telling rape jokes. Well, jokes about how to prevent being raped. Also, her dealing with sex which, again, she isn’t making into something graphic but finds the comedy in it that not a lot of female comics do. Like there is one joke about getting guys her age to wear condoms and what’s that like – really funny bit. And while not the most hilarious comic thus far, be it because she is this 20 something white chick or because she is a bro without trying to be a bro she seems very commercial.
Strangely, I didn’t laugh once during Taylor’s whole set yet I enjoyed her the most. Weird comment, I know. But here is the thing, she actually came off as someone who may have veered towards being a trope or stereotype, but never fell into the basket. Take for example her feeling like she was kind of homely but seeing herself as subjectively hot. Usually, that’s a joke for someone older than her but her harnessing that now feels very different. That and her being a former fat kid who finds herself hating hot people – even to the point of picking on an audience member.
Yet, again, she twists this into a way where as soon as you are ready to set her into a comfortable label, she dodges you like a football or basketball player heading to the end zone. For while, yeah, she kind of picks on this audience member she can imagine bullying her. However, as she gets into rape jokes, she finds common ground. They have a moment where they high five yet Taylor reminds herself they wouldn’t be cool in high school despite their moment.
And it is just this sense of her being a sort of anti-millennial type but her not trying to make that her shtick which is appealing in a way. For it also helps her carve her own lane. She doesn’t come off as the new anyone for she isn’t overly vulgar, isn’t trying to present a sense of innocence while saying eyebrow-raising things, isn’t an insult comic or none of that. It is just her observations and her handling of life-based off what was a conservative sounding upbringing. Not one which she completely rejects at this point, but still holds just enough influence for her to feel out of place and find the comedy in that. The kind which, for those socially awkward, she seems like she can become your new favorite comic.
When it comes to Sam Jay, prep for a slight 90s vibe mixed with current era. Not just because she says the N word like every other sentence. More so, its because she is unashamed with how urban she is but is queer in a way you didn’t see being exhibited so openly back in the day. This mix gives you a comic who can talk about being new money and going broke, when having a new girl having to buy a new dildo, as well as doing Trump jokes and presenting her claim how white people are aliens. That and how Jackass was a cry for help that, because it was ignored, led to Trump.
I’m watching these one after another and I’m starting to fear I’m building a tolerance since I didn’t laugh at this one either. Yet, I can see and understand Sam’s lane. She seems like the type who mostly does stand up her whole career, the occasional comedy special, maybe a memorable movie role, but never really leaves the stage you know.
Why? Well, it seems like she is the type who if she went to TV or had someone write anything for her, it would be trash. She has the type of voice which is all her own and while it sets her up for comical stand-up routines, translating that into a consistent role would take some work. The kind, even with this diversity initiative going on, we don’t really see afforded to queer women of color. At least in terms of lesbians like Sam. Trans women yes, assuming they can be called queer, but there aren’t a huge amount of Black lesbians on TV. Even when it comes to Netflix and premium stations. Hell, even Pose doesn’t feature lesbian women. So maybe Sam can break ground. Can’t you imagine her doing some Louie type of show on BET if they were about more than urban hetero hip-hop and R&B culture? With a taste of bougie blackness every now and then?
28 and from the UK, Phil Wang is pretty much a nerdy comic. One whose jokes seem kind of juvenile and without that strong of a punch line. I would write more but that may convey he actually made me do more but check how much longer his set was.
Wang is the reason some people think Netflix is tarnishing what it means to have a comedy special since now they give that opportunity to everyone. For, in the case of Wang, while you have to give him props for getting on a stage and telling jokes, his 15 minutes of pseudo-fame seem wasted. For one, his opening and closing were weak. There wasn’t this shaky warm up then he finished strong. It was like he was warming up the whole set. Especially since he decides to repeat himself and try to find different ways, some not sexual, to make his last name funny. That and make his bi-racial, half white and half Chinese (by way of Malaysia) heritage funny. Which he failed at.
However, I will give him that his story of talking to a Chinese girl, and trying to impress her with his Mandarin, was funny. Not hilarious, more so it may elicit a chuckle, but it was better than nothing. Sadly though, we didn’t really get a conclusion to that story.
A new mom, via her wife, and half Pakistani. There is something about Sabrina which will make you think, “Didn’t she have a show at one time?” Because she has the kind of set that makes you think awkward comic who got on network TV and found herself with a cult hit. Which isn’t to imply she isn’t funny, since cult hit implies niche market, but she definitely has this sitcom star who pauses for a laugh track kind of set.
I really liked Sabrina’s set. Dare I say it, I’d might even pay to see her, if it was under $35 and I didn’t have to deal with a two-drink minimum. For while, again, in terms of binge-watching one set after another, she doesn’t break the monotony of Trump and #MeToo jokes, nor presents the kind of queer jokes which makes you forget Sam Jay was just two episodes ago. However, similar to Taylor, there is this vibe that she could break out and really become something after this.
And while, yeah, this group format where she is one of many does her 0 favors, since you will feel like you heard some form of her set before she is up, but on her own? You can see a future. She won’t just be part of the number of comedians on Netflix. She could really become something.
Young, spry, and a tad bit silly, what you get from Jak Knight is someone who would flourish if shows like In Living Color got the same revered treatment as SNL and never got canceled (though he might be good for Wild n’ Out as well). For he has the energy of a young Chris Tucker but without the dancing and other antics which made Chris Tucker – Chris Tucker. What Jak brings is that side of Tucker which wasn’t necessarily afraid to be a bit flamboyant and out there. To step outside of the hyper-masculine role a lot of Black male comedians play and it makes for quite a ride. Especially as he talks about the idea of #MeToo in the Black community, competing with lesbians and how their dating is different from the rest because how easy it can be, and how he doesn’t like doing political jokes.
Well, correction – like some (me) he just doesn’t find Trump jokes funny anymore. However, he will pull out some government jokes when it comes to explaining why his generation is more in touch with their feminine side. Not even in a weird homophobic kind of way but just saying, he was raised by his momma and grandma because the government worked to fracture Black families. Do you think that nurture effect won’t lead to Lil Uzi Vert type of dudes?
Thus giving you one of the most curious comics of this whole thing.
I’m not going to call Jak a breath of fresh air but I will give him points for seeming different. Which may be the main issue of this special. They didn’t necessarily pick the top people who had a certain shtick and made sure each featured person had their own voice, point of view, and their jokes didn’t meld with another comics. For that is why I think I’m barely finding most of these comics funny. It may not be because they are up and coming, but because they don’t seem like undiscovered gems.
For most of them, outside Wang who maybe can be accepted in a niche market but not necessarily by me (he just doesn’t fit my taste), they may have a 15-minute set but still are working on their own voice. It’s like when you start writing or drawing and you draw from your inspirations, sound or present stuff which seems like imitations, but eventually you break out of that and find who you are. At this point, most of these comics seem like they are just breaking out of tropes and away from inspirations. Making it where you can kind of see some go somewhere with their talent, but you aren’t’ sure if it is because the person they remind you of you like, or because that specific comic has what it takes.
Focusing on Jak specifically, I like his switch up. He can go from saying the N word every other sentence to noting the reason Black men his age are the way they are is because government intervention in Black communities. He can go from seeming like he ain’t s***, like with his story about thinking he got a girl pregnant, to calling out how women hold all the responsibility for birth control and men are lazy about it. Only to flip it and say he only has sex with well-off, ambitious, and liberal women because they are more likely to abort if they get pregnant.
In my head, Jak maybe ready, alongside Taylor and Sabrina, to a point, to begin transitioning to the next level. Maybe even flourish with the right people behind them.
You know how the saying goes, “Saving the best for last?” That isn’t the case here. While Dillon is likable as she talks about his love for The Great British Bakeoff, hatred of summer, and how Long Island Medium has ruined Long Island, NY’s reputation, you don’t get a one-two punch here. He is just a good conversationalist talking out into a slightly interactive crowd.
Pretty much what was said with Jak applies here, but the more on the fence/ negative stuff. The problem is, these people are funny but they are not pay money to see them funny, or I can imagine shows and movies after this showcase, let’s not call it a special, funny. Such is the case of Tim who, like many of the later comics, sort of stumbles. Not because someone did a joke similar to his earlier in the showcase but more so because he doesn’t bring that oomph or energy which makes him seem like an exclamation point. He is just another sort of funny guy who, maybe if you didn’t want 7 other comics before him, you may actually find funny. However, since you did, you are just left staring at this dude hoping he may say something which wakes you up from a stupor.
Sadly, he doesn’t.
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
- This took place in Atlanta
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
At a certain point, a good body transcends gender. – Sabrina Jalees
- Jak, Taylor, Sabrina
These three comedians you can see going places. There is a certain something about them which feels different, even if there are certain elements of their act which seems strangely familiar. Jak, for example, has that sort of In Living Color if not slight Def Comedy Jam spirit, remake more than classics, and you can appreciate it. Especially since he updates that sort of freedom on stage others had and while he may not be flying all over the stage, humping the stool, and all that, his energy feels so electric you can imagine him doing that, in a scripted environment, if it means getting a quality laugh.
As for Taylor, let’s face it, Hollywood will more quickly invest in a white female comic before any other type. However, Taylor’s shtick makes it where you get why they would choose her. She isn’t a pick that makes you feel some exec is trying to pat themselves on the back or some kind of Hollywood affirmative action move. There is something intriguing about her since as much as she does remind you of other comedians, you can see they are but inspirations. She has her own thing and while she isn’t going high speed down her own lane, still driving a bit tipsy and going into other people’s, like with Jak and Sabrina, all she needs is the right mentor and she’d be on a Tiffany Haddish styled rocket.
Leaving Sabrina. There are just layers to her story which make you want her to have her own show. She is married, has a new kid, is half Pakistani, is a more masculine lesbian, and is seemingly still recovering from being disowned. The foundation is so rich to build off of for a show it is screaming. Especially since the diversity era is still in high gear and could use more diverse representation of queer people and families.
- Phil Wang
I would love to be nice and say he is just a niche. That maybe he is just not my cup of tea, but I don’t know if that would be making excuses or not. It could very well be he was just nervous since he thought of this as a “special.” Maybe he took an opportunity before he was ready but rather take the opportunity and stumble than regret never stepping up to the plate? I don’t know but he definitely left a bad impression he has to work his way back from.
On The Fence
- Tim, Sam, Ian, Michelle
When it comes to the comedians above, it was one of two things: For those like Ian, it was just not my taste. I can see their lane and imagine them getting popular, but I wouldn’t necessarily put my money, or MoviePass’, because they are in it. As for Tim and Sam, the issue there is fatigue. The more comedy you watch, one after another, the higher grade those that follow need to be. Then, on top of that, both have comedians who are similar enough to them, in this same season, where you can compare and contrast. Making it where both find themselves on the losing end and Tim kind of just becoming an afterthought. Especially since going after Jak hit him HARD.
As for Michelle? I like her, she is comical, but also she went first. She started off with a clean slate. But, even after watching 8 comics, I feel like I’d still want to see her again. I’d love for her to pop up on Claws or Insecure as a guest star or reoccurring character. I wouldn’t say she is at the point of having her own show yet, but she does seem like she could maybe do well as part of an ensemble. She is one who is definitely worth watching and waiting to see what happens.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
Straight up, no one is going to make you roar with laughter and after a certain point, you may figure continuing to watch this is a waste of time. I won’t say you are wrong, but also there has to be some leeway in that this is likely the first showcase for a lot of the talent. Hence why many shoutout Netflix in their acts and seem a bit off at times.
But what leads to the mixed label is because there are too many similar comics, in terms of styles and what they are talking about, and with there being so many comics out there, of which Netflix seems to be scoping out constantly, it makes you wonder if this was really the best? Not to throw shade or anything, but there is a sort of quantity over quality vibe here. Which is one thing when it is a movie or TV series, but with comedians, it seems like a bad bet to pick 8 comics, with similarities, and then hope for the best. For while I’m sure they aren’t that expensive to have, it does make you want to take less of a risk on Netflix showcasing unknown talent.