Why isn’t there a standup-special equivalent of a beach read? I wouldn’t recommend sunbathing with a smartphone in your hand, however it’s actually possible. As more comics release their first specials developed within the pandemic, a recent crop of hours from seasoned acts is prepared to enrich your summer vacation.
Nikki Glaser, ‘Good Clean Filth’
Wearing thigh-high white boots and a brief yellow dress, Nikki Glaser looks as very similar to a Bond girl as a standup. She’s not selling sex a lot as teaching it, explicitly making the case for her own bawdy jokes filling the area of interest left by the pitiful job done by sex education and porn. Long adopting the persona of an older sister leveling with you, she moves closer to a contemporary comedy update on Dr. Ruth and even old-school women’s magazines, speaking prescriptively about every little thing from anal sex to methods to get a person.
A sly and expert joke author, she knows sex jokes get easy laughs, so she makes transgressive ones that look difficult to tug off. She scatters punch lines in a nimble voice that moves from gravelly deep to squeaky sweet. She delights in wordplay. Joking about her vagina, she says, “I discuss it a lot that I don’t call it my privates. I call it my public.”
After which there’s this gem on male rationalization for dating younger ladies. “There’s an epidemic of young individuals with old souls in response to all my 40-year-old-friends.” Her hour can feel a bit of familiar, going over territory she has already mastered. Alternatively, there’s her closer, a silent act-out that works as a callback, an innovation and a giant laugh.
Bill Burr, ‘Live at Red Rocks’
Early within the pandemic, Bill Burr went on Joe Rogan’s podcast and got into it about masks. Rogan made fun of them as feminine and weak. “You’re so tough along with your open nose and throat,” Burr snapped back, with an extra curse, pushing Rogan about turning a medical issue into something about manhood. “Why does it at all times grow to be like that?”
This viral moment revealed a divide between the 2 popular comics. On his podcast, Rogan sells a certain aspirational view of masculinity, while in his standup, Burr presents a more tortured portrait, giving anguished voice to male resentments and phobias in addition to expression to their destructiveness. Together with certainly one of the nice deliveries in standup comedy, this complexity is what makes Burr a riveting performer.
His messy, rambling, often hilarious recent special baits the audience at every turn. Like Bruce Banner, Burr is fearful about his temper, however it’s what we’ve come to see. And it will probably be the engine to some daring riffs that dig at either side of the culture war, though he’s more animated and funnier going after liberals. None of his many peers do that as well. No clichés about lattes and kale here. Describing a privileged white tweeter who’s virtue signaling, he imitates, typing out, “My heart breaks on my L-shaped couch.”
Burr does repeat himself, and for the second special in a row, he speculates that they’re running out of men to cancel. His bits are more intricately organized than his act. He closes on one which’s not as strong because the bit that got here before. The emotional highlight sits awkwardly in the center when he gets choked up describing the self-loathing of losing his temper in front of his daughter and finding that he’s falling into the identical mistakes that his father made. Bent down in a hunch, Burr is unexpectedly emotional, the bluster vanished and the fashion transformed into tenderness. It’s a spread that makes you think that there’s a number one role in an excellent movie in his future.
Fahim Anwar, ‘Hat Trick’
The pun within the brisk, low-concept “Hat Trick,” through which the flamboyantly silly comic wears a backward cap while performing in three different rooms of the Comedy Store in Hollywood, is its only effortful part. Otherwise, the vibe is laid-back, offhanded, just one other night on the club. You see introductions, shoptalk with comics and a number of the drive home. In between are jokes on essentially the most meat-and-potato standup subjects: dating, the pandemic, weed, porn.
There’s something pleasingly comfortable in regards to the style here, one which Anwar can pull off because he’s certainly one of the best physical comedians working in clubs today. His act-outs rival Sebastian Maniscalco’s in grace and exceed them in goofiness, whether or not they are of a deer, a dancing emoji or a member of the Taliban using hand sanitizer. Each of those works nicely with the joke. The one risk is in seeming a bit of strained, which is why the underplayed style works so well. For those who want a couple of laughs but don’t have time to get to the club, it will do.
Cristela Alonzo, ‘Middle Classy’
When Cristela Alonzo is telling a story, she has a selected if ambiguous look on her face that someway generates suspense: a smiling type of wonder that doubles as exasperation. It’s somewhere between “Can you think this nonsense?” and “What a world.” You would like to discover where she lands.
It’s a part of the fun of her first special in five years, whose highlights are sensitively observed jokes explaining the transition from growing up poor to finding some success. Keep an eye fixed out for a virtuoso story about her first trip to the gynecologist. Her joyful comedy has a dark side, which shows around the perimeters of jokes, within the subtext. “I’ve been smiling a lot and I’m not even completely satisfied,” she says about midway through. “I just got my teeth fixed.” Flashing radiant dental work, she says it was expensive in a pointed way that makes that joyful look on her face look like a setup to this payoff.
After saying he never hears queer women complaining about their inability to attain orgasm, Joel Kim Booster abruptly silences a round of applause with a glare and a raise of a hand. “I won’t let this descend into clapter,” he adds pointedly. For years, Booster — who between this special and his recent Hulu movie, “Fire Island,” is having a moment — has brought a commanding club-comic energy to alt rooms: prickly, aggressive but clear premises that arrange hard punch lines.
His stylish and funny debut is broken into three acts, one which leans on his identity as a gay Korean American comic, the second that doesn’t and the third that focuses on sex. Throughout, he uses a straight white man in the gang as a foil to look at questions of relatability and universality. He periodically talks directly into the camera to handle the director about where to focus the camera, a fun tactic that evokes shows like “Fleabag.”
His formal devices are clever and nicely integrated into the set — even when it builds to an argument that’s ultimately pretty traditional. The strength here is his forcefully seductive presence, one which grasps that politics or sex are, amongst other things, powerful instruments to establish a punchline. After discussing the racism of Asian fetishes, he deadpans: “I believe it’s doubly racist if you might have an Asian fetish and usually are not interested in me specifically.”