April 2017’s Best Standup Specials: The Lucas Brothers, Brent Weinbach, and More
After a jam-packed March, April eased up a bit in terms of standup special quantity, but delivered some serious quality offerings. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of what dropped last month.
Louis C.K. – 2017 (Netflix)
2017 is Louis’ seventh special and the first in which he wears a suit. Through longer-than-usual act-outs and some extended vocal sound effects (watch out Michael Winslow) Louis delivers his deep thoughts on abortion, trans issues, his own sexuality, and Greek mythology. He’s mastered the art of doing a full lap around the most potentially controversial subjects, observing and questioning from various contradictory angles, before crossing the finish line where he is always ultimately the loser. Bonus points for not mentioning Trump the entire time.
Steve Byrne – Tell the Damn Joke (Showtime)
Steve Byrne opens his newest special by explaining to the crowd at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall that he just turned 40. Like a lot of middle-aged men, he feels like he has a lot to be irritated about, like politics, social media, women, children, Disneyland, and more. The description of the special promises that Byrne “holds no punches and calls it like it is” and I guess that’s true. The final minutes of Tell the Damn Joke depart from the title as a sentimental Byrne gets choked up talking about his kids and then recites an original poem about what it means to be American.
Lucas Bros – On Drugs (Netflix)
In their first one-hour special, the Lucas Bros tag-team the topic of drugs personally, professionally, and politically. On Drugs is stylistically on point with what the Bros have become known for: similar outfits, chill swagger, and trippy animation. I’d like to say the special was great, but I don’t think they’d appreciate the compliment because as Kenny told me, “A lot of people aspire for greatness. We need more people who are willing to embrace mediocrity. That’s what we do. It’s like, ‘Fuck it. I want to make a career of being average.’”
Brent Weinbach – Appealing to the Mainstream (Seeso)
An exercise in patience and absurdity, Brent Weinbach’s new special sets out to make people laugh without using traditional standup formula. It gets weird. Really weird. It isn’t until about the three-quarter mark that Weinbach reveals the method behind his madness: “A lot of standup comedians like to tell jokes onstage. Not me. I do tell some jokes, but I don’t like jokes because jokes you have to get. I like when you can laugh at something and not understand why…it’s a lot like laughing at things the way you did when you were a child.”
Vir Das – Abroad Understanding (Netflix)
American audiences got the chance to meet India’s biggest comedian last month as Vir Das released Abroad Understanding on Netflix. Das is the first Indian-born comic to get a worldwide Netflix release. His one-man show style of comedy has been selling out big venues back home for a while, due in part to his roles in several major Bollywood films. The special visually depicts where Das is in his global notoriety as it jumps back and forth between him performing for a crowd of 11,000 in India and a crowd of 200 in New York. As he told us, “I’m at a place where I want to be one of the big comedians on the world circuit. I feel like there’s a genuine place in the world market – and in the American market – for an authentic Indian comedy voice.”