The stand up week

So this week I procrastinated by watching some stand up comedy, mostly on Netflix. As I now do, I decided to write up on the 13 comedians I discovered.

I was happy to find women in that list, but I was quite surprised by how harshly they were noted (even though Netflix stars are not really the most accurate quality measure ever, anyway) - especially given how good they were.

I like taking notes because I forget, so here we go. In no particular order.

I added a TOC because I wrote too much

English language stand up

1. Chelsea Handler: ★★★★★

I discovered Chelsea Handler thanks to “Chelsea Does” (on Netflix). I will admit that I was a bit sceptical in the beginning, as her style is quite aggressive. You need to get over the fact that she’s a bit of an asshole in order to appreciate her comedy. Right away, she kind of reminded me of the french cringeworthy (but damn funny) show “Connasse” (which translates to female asshole btw) by Camille Cottin.

But the more I watch of her, the more I love her. Her “Uganda be kidding me” had something like 2 stars on Netflix, but I actually liked it a lot. I will admit it is really based a lot on her persona(-lity?) and less on universally good jokes, but it’s a totally acceptable type of comedy and that shit was funny!

I also youtube’d some of her earlier stand up, which is very much what you’d imagine (alcoholic, Jewish, asshole Chelsea, just younger).

I’m actually quite intrigued by the new talk show experiment she’s preparing with Netflix.

2. Chelsea Peretti: ★★★★★

I knew Chelsea from Brooklyn 99, a show that I watch when I really don’t have anything else and I need a quick feel-good palate cleanser. I was quite hesitant to watch her solo stand up show, as I was afraid it was going to be more of the same. But I’m so glad I did!

Chelsea Peretti is actually quite the opposite of Gina Linetti (her role in B99), except for the part where they are both hilarious. You know when there’s comedy that will really make your brain smile (phrasing is subpar, I know… bear with me), and then there’s comedy that will make you laugh out loud. I’m happy to say that “One of the Greats” made both my smart brain and my lizard brain happy, which is a quite the accomplishment!

3. John Mulaney: ★★★★★

John Mulaney’s “Comeback kid” was the first stand up show Netflix suggested I watch. And here I am today, writing a post about 13 comedians. So if the 5 stars I put next to his name were not clear enough, I think this fact gives you a hint about my appreciation of him.

I think I would really like John Mulaney as a person. Which can help, but it isn’t a guarantee for success. But this very smart guy has obviously a lot of experience writing jokes (SNL and so on) and he has spent a lot of time working on these particular ones and on their delivery. And it’s all great.

I watched on youtube a lot of John Mulaney and I find him in consistently really funny. Even though it was a bit weird seeing him on Conan O’Brien make a joke the exact way -word for word and microexpression for microexpression- that he does in his own stand up show. I’ll admit at that point I wondered if he is just a very advanced robot (“John, the relatable android”), created by the real comedic genius John Mulaney.

4. Anjelah Johnson: ★★☆☆☆

Anjelah Johnson’s comedy is not really my cup of tea. A little bit too christian, a little bit too banal. She probably is good in what she is doing, but it really isn’t my thing. I tried her show “Not Fancy”. I watched 17 minutes because she’s not annoying or bad, but it just isn’t for me. She probably deserves the good reviews she has, from her fans, but for me it’s just a 2 out of 5.

5. Demetri Martin: ★★★★★

I watched a 2015 Live from Demetri Martin, subtitled “At the time”. It was really very interesting. His style, at least for this show, stands out from the lot.

The show consisted of one hour of (practically) one-liners. I guess one could say it was fast-paced, but Martin’s delivery was not like an overly energetic race. It was more like a stable -but not monotonous- flow of funny, delivered in a sort of complicit manner. Like he was looking at us -his real and virtual audience-, amazed about how well he can pull this off, and he’s looking at us in a way that says: “Yes, I know. I know”, as confidently as a very smart but rather shy person can.

When I watched other shows where the comedian was “telling jokes” more than a story, I was generally put off. I am not sure I understand what went wrong there, but I’m glad I didn’t know much about the show before watching it, because I seriously laughed (and admired his style and smarts, which as you might have guessed is a pattern for me).

6. Jen Kirkman: ★★★☆☆

I am feeling bad giving Jen Kirkman 3 stars out of 5, because it seemed like I would like her show. But I really was just “meh”.

It’s not too dumb, but it’s not too smart either. It’s not bad bad, but I didn’t get much more than a chuckle -physical or mental. In the 32 minutes I watched, there was nothing that stood out positively. It might be that her target audience is a bit older (or just in another phase in their life) than me, or that I had watched other shows earlier that day and was biased. I might give her a second chance at some point and come back to you.

7. Aziz Asnari: ★★★★★

I’m actually cheating with Aziz, because I had watched some of his stand up before, as well as “Master of None”. I even watched his “Buried alive” a couple of days before this comedy binge, but I think I can safely assume that nobody cares about this. I also watched it with Alexandre.

In everything I’ve watched so far Aziz Asnari is very good. He doesn’t give off the same vibe as others I’ve praised above, of being a perfectly tuned joke machine, but the show is relatable, funny and smart.

Note: an earlier, mistaken, version gave Aziz 4 stars. It was a typo.

8. Jim Jefferies: ★★★★☆

While Jim Jefferies’ comedy does contain a bit too much stereotyping (of sexes and genders) for my liking, that man is a funny man. He’s not a shy, nerdy guy. He’s direct, often extravagant, not afraid to admit his flaws. Most of his jokes are based on this messy, adorable kind of jerk, australian guy persona. And I did laugh. I’m not offended at all by the fact that he’s not a militant feminist (or any other militant ideologist anyway). It’s just that personally I never had the (self destructive) drugs, alcohol and women lifestyle that a male comedian can have, so as much as I find him funny, I can’t really relate that much.

Although, of course, the show I watched ( “Bare”) is much more than some drunken guy’s stories. I enjoyed his casting mishaps and of course his gun control rant, which was as funny as it was valid.

9. Anthony Jeselnik: ★★★★☆

“Thoughs and Prayers” has a lot of dead baby jokes. Which is more than fine by me. Anthony Jeselnik’s comedy is dark. And if you are like me you are ok with that, but he still manages to catch you by surprise when showing off how little he cares about offending people.

And offending people is really at the core of his show, for better or worse. There’s a really positive side to this, and it’s in the fact that while being very offensive, he’s actually quite respectful and even I dare say politically correct in a very special way. Anthony Jeselnik’s feud is with getting offended, I would guess. He’s neither interested in amusing us so that we love him, nor in insulting and hurting people so that he can prove he’s that bad. That’s why he doesn’t take shortcuts by using those stupid stereotypes that most comedians cling to as a source for their material. Which leaves us with a pile of dead babies.

While I respect what he does, I was slightly less entertained in comparison to other shows, hence the 4 stars. In this particular show, he spends the first half-ish telling jokes, very loosely weaved together into a story that kind of irritated me. However, the second part was much more “personal”, and I personally preferred it. But I guess you can’t really fit all of that offensiveness in realistic, personal story telling.

French language stand up

Let me be honest from the start and say that my feelings about french mainstream comedy (stand up at least) are rather negative in general. Every time I try and give it a chance, I’m disappointed. But it was there, staring me, on my Neflix suggestions, so why not?

Well I was right. I find it’s really …underdeveloped. Just really really basic. I tried most of what was suggested to me by Netflix, and I gave each one at least 5 minutes of grace time. Here’s the sad recap:

1. Olivier de Benoist: ★☆☆☆☆

Olivier Marie Emmanuel de Benoist de Gentissart (yup) is a funny-ish guy, and a really friendly looking fellow, but the material is just too basic/cliché. I endured it for 7 min.

2. Anne Roumanoff: ★☆☆☆☆

I couldn’t really connect with her, but I think it’s just that her target audience is older than me. The show was not bad bad, but not for much more than 9.5 min. for me.

####3. Arnaud Tsamère: ☆☆☆☆☆

The worst of the lot for me. I couldn’t bare him for a second more than 8 min. I can’t really comment on the material because it was so unfunny I just turned it off.

4. Patson: ★★★☆☆

Now this one was a surprise. His humour is not really my type of humour on an “intellectual” level, but his jokes were good. You could see this guy really has worked his material and the delivery is really funny. I think I watched 32 minutes and I would probably have watched the whole show if I was a tad less bored (after having watched the other 3).

I promise french comedy is not always that bad. Younger generations have often given me hope. Sadly, mostly on youtube and shorts and less on stand up performances, but after all I’m far from an expert… (but do I want to be one?)

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