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 The Stand Ups, Season Two. Netflix’s Half Hour Stand Up Special Series Features Gina Yashere, Kyle Kinane, Joe List, Rachel Feinstein, Brent Morin, and Aparna Nancherla.
Season 2 of The Standups is overall pretty good. My biggest issue with the series is Netflix doing its typical thing and releasing all the episodes on the same day. Binging comedy makes it a lot easier to tune out and miss most of the material and when you give people the option to binge…they’re most likely going to do it. It creates issues in a format like this when you watch Brent Morin tell a joke about taking Ubers and then see Rachel Feinstein talk about cab drivers a few minutes later. There are some you can skip (Brent Morin) and some you NEED to see (Joe List. Below are individual reviews for each episode of The Standups, Season 2.
The first 8 minutes of Brent’s special is a joke that feels like just took over the entire special. Brent is making fun of people who get into the back seat of UberX cars (Hopefully, there are people like me who thought this was the norm) and says when he gets drunk he too goes into the back and goes into a long bit where he pretends to be in the back of the car. The joke doesn’t really go over and then ends abruptly, a pretty weird way to start a special and an especially odd choice to do this 8-minute joke in a 30-minute special.
This special is a definite step back for Brent, his 2016 special I’m Brent Morin was really good. This made me all the more disappointed because I loved the way he framed that special. If you did not catch it, the entire hour was almost like a joke inception where he was trying to tell a story but kept getting sidetracked with other stories and jokes before finally ending that story and the special at the same time. This didn’t feel like a 30-minute set, it felt like 30 minutes of jokes he was working on. This one is definitely skippable.
Gina Yashere has an incredible charisma that translates to the crowd in the theater and to anyone watching her at home. Gina uses her frustration with growing up in England to express how badly she wanted to grow up in America because of our TV and movies. She really made this 30-minute set a complete piece. A joke that starts the special with her mom choosing to move from Nigeria to England really helps to vent about how much better Americans have it but then goes seamlessly into complaining about the way America is today. The special feels like a story and that makes it work. Some Americans don’t want to listen to someone from another country bash the USA, but by talking about how important American culture was to Gina growing up adds an element of understanding.
Gina has had a great career in comedy, she is no newbie but there is a good chance this is the first time a lot of people will experience her. She’s had spots on Conan, Def Comedy Jam and had a recurring segment on Leno but that kind of appearances can be easily forgotten, not at the fault of the comedian but because the culture has changed where a Carson appearance changed your life. Netflix has become a Starmaker, it’s really easy to watch someones special and suggest it to someone else. With all of the options the service has, people are just dying for suggestions. This is the episode you’re going to watch and suggest to your friends thinking you’ve stumbled upon something new.
Kyle Kinane comes out with a ton of energy and at a level that is usually annoying but really works for him. The first joke is about mass shootings and the timing of this release sadly makes this joke land even better in a really fucked up way. The only way to describe Kyle is also a complete oxymoron, he’s a really grumpy guy who is keeping things positive. Everyone is sick of hearing the curmudgeons come out and talk about what all the young people are doing wrong but Kinane comes out, makes these complaints while also saying why he’s still trying it out or kind of agrees with it all.
Kinane’s 30-minute special as a great flow, there are no awkward transitions into new jokes which really takes me out of a show. Sometimes that’s not the comedian’s fault, it’s bad editing but thankfully there is no issue here and that’s incredibly important with the short attention span people tend to have. An hour special is damn near impossible to get people to watch without breaking midway through but some people can’t even do 30 minutes. Kyle’s energy really keeps you locked on him and listening to what he has to say. I wouldn’t call this one a priority of the series, but it is one you should definitely watch.
This is the continuation of a great year for Aparna Nancharla. She’s been on Master of None and Crashing, had major roles on Corporate and Bojack Horseman and now a solid 30 minute special on season 2 of The Standups. It’s really interesting to watch her episode back to back with Kyle Kinane’s. Kinane comes on screaming and walking around, really commanding the stage and working hard to keep you watching while Aparna stays calm and keeps you completely entertained while barely moving Her slight facial expressions are also amazing accessories to building her jokes and landing punchlines.
The first time Aparna moves from the spot where she starts the special is when she brings out a television to do her power point presentation which takes over the rest of the special. The powerpoint really works within this series, especially for anyone who may be binging all the specials. You’ve been watching straight standup and it’s a great break in the action to see something different. Even if Aparna is the first one you watched, chances are you will remember the one person who used their episode to stand out.
A lot of comedians are beginning to use a visual component in their acts, Hannibal Burress has been using his own intro video and using a screen to play videos to tell jokes and quotes from a Reddit thread about himself. Considering we live our lives online and through texting now, it makes sense to make it a part of your act and this is the best way to do it. This is without a doubt one of the stronger episodes of season 2.
The last special Rachel Feinstein put out was her Comedy Central hour produced by Amy Schumer Only Whores Wear Purple. This special is definitely an improvement from that. She’s not doing anything groundbreakingly different or really changing her act that much but it just works better in this 30-minute format. Rachel does a lot of impressions, not impressions of celebrities and people you’ve heard of but people from her life like her mother, a cab driver or the toddler daughter of her friend that is always trying to seduce her.
Rachel builds these characters up enough and describes them so well that by the time she does the voice it feels like you know that person and the impression somehow feels more accurate. Rachel probably seems like she’s having the most fun during her episode, it’s a really enjoyable episode that absolutely flies by. If you didn’t like Only Whores Wear Purple, give this one a chance.
Joe List without a doubt has the strongest 30 minutes of the season, you’re laughing from the first 30 seconds of the special al the way to the end credits. It feels like Joe doesn’t stop crushing for even a second. This special felt like live comedy, it didn’t feel like a taped TV special. Joe goes into the idea of “making fun” of someone and breaks the term down and it seems ridiculous that you’ve never realized this before.
Joe List’s delivery and material is on point, there is just something about the way he tells a joke that just works so well. This is really a perfect 30 minutes and anyone planning to do one of these, whether it be with Netflix on The Standups of a Comedy Central Half-Hour needs to look at what Joe List has put out as what to strive for. This is the must watch episode of season 2.