So the other night, the Geek Husband What Rules and I sat down and watched three comedy specials on Netflix:
Mike Birbiglia – The New One
Jenny Slate – Stage Fright
Seth Meyers – Lobby Baby
They were all excellent, laugh so hard you nearly pee funny. But in very different ways. And I related to all of them very, very well and in different ways.
Not all, but a lot, of the Mike Birbiglia special revolved around the story of he and his wife’s first child. First, let me say, that I really feel for this kid when she is old enough to see this special, and I hope they’ve already started the therapy fund. When they got married, he and his wife, whom he loves very much, decided not to have kids. Birbiglia has/has had a series of health issues that he really doesn’t think need to be passed down another generation, and I get that. Later on, his wife changed her mind, and they wound up having a child.
This is a HUGE case of something that you laugh at so you don’t cry. And there is humor, but a lot of this special is hard. I can tell you, my life is one big study in “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry,” and I found parts of this special super hard. But, like I said, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” Obviously, Birbiglia, and a lot of comedians come from this sort of reality. You can either let it crush you, or you can turn your despair and disfunction into amusing anecdotes for co-workers and audiences. I get this. But man, this child is going to grow up and find this, and I would not want to be in the blast radius
Comedians like Birbiglia, Kyle Kinane, and others like them, are why, I think, that when you listen to comedy stations on Pandora or Spotify, the targeted ads are liquor, therapists, and recovery clinics. Oh, and casinos, because A. comedians play a lot of casinos and B. what is one life-destroying pathology (substance abuse) without another (gambling).
Sorry, too real?
Next we watched Jenny Slate’s special, Stage Fright. I adore Jenny Slate, I think she is a phenomenal voice actress, and funny as hell. And again, a lot of her stuff is super relatable. She interviews members of her family, interspersed with her comedy clips. And I find it delightful that her impressions of her grandmother is so spot on. It’s very sweet and heartwarming, interspersed with hilarious, off-color bits, and some pretty gut-wrenching truths as well.
In her I see echoes of something I said to my grad school advisor one day. I was having a shit day, terrible. I’d had a fight with the GHWR over the phone, we were living over 100 miles apart the bulk of the time while I was in grad school. I was running late for grad seminar, I’d tripped and skinned up my knees and run my tights earlier in the day, which I couldn’t afford to replace (see above re: grad school), and I walked into her office and burst into tears. I started to tell her about the fight, and I was trying to make it funny, and I did. Because she laughs, and says, “I feel horrible laughing while you’re crying like this.” To which I responded, “No, if I can make it funny to someone else, I know I’ll be ok.”
That is kind of what the Jenny Slate special embodied to me. I feel like she is a little less certain of the ok outcome than I usually am. But yeah, it felt like, “When I have nothing else, I can make people laugh.”
Both of these specials, and my life, feel to me a lot like an old joke: A man goes to the doctor. He says, “Doctor, I’m so depressed, sometimes I don’t know how I can go on. And I just, I feel awful all the time.”
The doctor says, “I have just the thing. You should go see the great clown, Pagliacci.”
To which the man says, “But doctor, I AM Pagliacci.”
I almost feel like I should have the punchline tattooed on my arm or something. Because I feel that a lot of the time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve admitted to suffering with depression for the bulk of my life to have someone say, “But you always seem so upbeat!”
Anyway, on to the Seth Meyers special. This special has a far different feel. Seth Meyers is the host of one of the late night shows, Late Night with Seth Meyers. I do find him hilarious, but largely watch his show through youtube clips because we don’t have regular TV anymore, we just do Netflix and Hulu.
Seth Meyers strikes me as that rarest of rare creatures, a well-adjusted comedian. His tone is fairly light. He does in fact have Netflix insert a means to forward past the political stuff, and utilizes that tool beautifully in the special. Really, you should go watch it. And I feel like his is the most accessible of the comedy specials we watched. He does the aforementioned political bit, and tells stories about his wedding, about the births of his children (pro-tip: the title has something to do with that), and does a very sweet bit about what a comedy routine by his wife about him would sound like, in rebuttal to some material he did on her.
If you aren’t down for confessional style humor, I’d stick with the Seth Meyers special.
But, if you are either of the “I enjoy watching train wrecks” or “I live/have survived a train wreck life or mental state, and enjoy seeing how others have survived them,” then I would also heartily recommend the other two as well.
And by train wreck lives I mean, if you have ever started stories with things like, “So, my cousin and his wife both got arrested for domestic violence, against each other, at the same time,” or “This was the second, no, third time this uncle almost died in the last four years…”* then yeah, you’re probably down for Mike Birbiglia and Jenny Slate.
*Those of you who know me irl/meat space know that I do, in fact, have stories that start with those lines. Also, “Ok, so before I tell you this story, I would like to preface it with, ‘I did not actually kick the child.'”
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