Our newest columnist, Vito Calise, is taking on the huge task of reviewing all the comedy specials he can see. You know him from SiriusXM’s Bennington Show, The Interrobang’s Big Brothers podcast, and as the star of the first ever Instagram young adult drama series, The Halls. Born and raised on New York City’s Upper West Side, Vito went to Chelsea’s School of Visual Arts, has danced on bars as a bartender around Manhattan, operated a mechanical bull and was even a doorman for a week. And he loves comedy. And he’s taking on Marlon Wayans new stand up special Wokeish. These are his thoughts.
Ricky Gervais fans are going to love his latest special, Humanity which is available on Netflix. He goes into jokes about religion within the first 90 seconds of the special to remind you what kind of show you are going to be watching. The set also puts Gervais in a very familiar setting because it looks a lot like his last HBO special, Out of England. It’s a simple stage with just small LED lights, a podium where he stores his water (as opposed to a stool, so there’s no stool humping), and a headset, which most British comedians seem to prefer over microphones.
Right after his quick Jesus joke, he pokes fun at the name of the special, Humanity. He goes back to the name a few times but even when he doesn’t bring up the name to lead into a joke, most of the humor follows a similar theme focused on Humanity. It’s really refreshing to see a comedian actually think this out and give their special a flow. It makes the special more (for lack of a better word) special. In this Netflix era where this is so much comedy released per year, it’s important for a special to have a feel so you remember it for something. So many comedians just use a word from one of their punch lines or just pick a random word but Gervais really is taking on Humanity during this show.
My favorite part of the special itself was at the beginning where Gervais talks about hosting the Golden Globes. This part is especially interesting because it could have easily been terrible. It could have easily been a cheap way to boast that he did the show and it really seems like that’s what it’s going to be at first. The bit is Gervais defending himself for his joke about Caitlyn Jenner that he got dragged online for at the time. The reason it’s interesting is that Gervais takes the joke apart and explains why it’s not only a funny joke but not offensive like people tried to claim. The payoff isn’t as great as I would have hoped but it was something new, a comedian taking a joke that didn’t go over well on social media and defending its merit.
Another big problem with how much comedy is out there now is how easy it is to have material similar to other comedians. Gervais takes on some topics we have definitely heard from other people before like his 10 minutes complain about people with food allergies, peanuts specifically. It’s also connected to a story about doing Jimmy Fallon and having to defend his thoughts against a mother, which is similar to the Golden Globes bit from before. When watching Gervais’ special though, you have to remember he doesn’t live a normal life anymore. Stories about doing Jimmy Fallon and hosting the Golden Globes is oddly enough his day to day life and reaching that level as a comedian is when things get harder because it gets more difficult for an audience to relate to the performer. Gervais does tow that line but he’s so straightforward and cocky about it that it has become part of his character and it works for him.
Another thing he brings up is having children and how it is actually selfish to have kids. This is similar to a bit Segura had on his most recent Netflix special, Disgraceful, where Segura pointed out that having kids is not s selfless act because you’re creating a smaller version of you. Gervais does not use this same concept but its interesting that they both bring up the overall concept of having kids as selfish. With so much comedy out there, is there a new line for how close two jokes can be?
Overall, Gervais’ special is funny. His fans will be glad to see him return to the stage and doing shows again, especially since he first announced Humanity back in 2013. It’s pretty rare in comedy for a comedian to have a concept they come back to like this, that’s something you see more of in the music industry. This is only the first of what is supposed to be a two special deal with Netflix. I don’t think that this will be one that everyone is talking about for years to come but it’s definitely one you should check out on Netflix.