Stand-up comedy can take many different comedic routes, from raunchy to self-deprecating to political to everything in between. However, most comedy specials follow the same layout, a person with a microphone in front of an audience. This seems obvious and an unquestioned setting for stand-up. However, Drew Michael’s new special turns this format on its head. He pulls off something I doubt many people would even think about: stand-up with no audience.
His special is artistic, theatrical and reminds me of “The French New Wave Style,” except applied to stand-up comedy. It’s focusing only on the audience at home. Most comedy specials aim to make you feel like you’re actually in the audience, in the theatre watching them. However, Drew Michael artistically edits with jump-cuts, cut-aways to a girl Skyping that is never introduced, and the most jarring, a lack of background noise. He’s reminding you you’re watching this as a film and making the most of the digital medium.
When I first started watching, I was a little thrown off. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to immediately appreciate the silence but it was strange not to hear others laughing. Comedy is such a communal performance, with audience members coming together to laugh with each other and the comedian inserting themselves among them. It felt like a backlash against that. However, I soon found myself hysterically laughing with just me and Drew Michael. With the set being a simple, blue, dream-like background, you really feel like you’re in his mind. It creates a personal connection between him and the viewer, making the performance very intimate despite exaggerating the fact that its being shown on a screen. Additionally, without the live audience, it gives the audience at home the chance to digest a joke more. Just like when laugh tracks disappeared from sit-coms, it felt like the creators were letting the audience decide when to laugh, rather than basically holding up a cue card that says, “This is funny! You should laugh too!”
His comedy is on the darker, serious side with bits in between making light of it all or funny, outlandish comments that he thinks to himself. It definitely has a pretentious tone, but at the same time, he is self-deprecating and analyzing his personal flaws. While I wasn’t dying of laughter, like when I watch John Mulaney or Chris Rock, I’m not sure that’s what Michael was going for. It’s more of a chuckle and a, “Wow, I actually never thought of that,” or “Yes!! I relate to that pain too, but you made me smile about it.”
I highly recommend watching if you’re a fan of stand-up at all. It will make you laugh, reflect, feel and question why we think it’s fucked up to have sex with animals (you’ll have to watch it to get that last one). Above all, it’s just so unique and could be the start of a sub-genre of stand-up comedy that takes a more poetic, melodramatic form.
How to Watch: HBO
Release Date: 25 August 2018