June 2017’s Best Standup Specials: Rory Scovel, T.J. Miller, and More

rory-scovelWith only four comedy specials released last month it would be easy to say that we’re in a bit of a summer drought compared to previous months. But instead of complaining about the metaphorical weather, let’s just spend some time reviewing what fell from the skies in June. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of what dropped last month.

Andrew Santino – Home Field Advantage (Showtime)

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Andrew Santino is one of three comedians enjoying what I like to call the “Showtime Double Dip,” which pairs a role in the throwback dramedy series I’m Dying Up Here with a one-hour comedy special. Home Field Advantage finds Santino back in his hometown of Chicago in front of a large crowd of people who love jokes about their city. It’s apparent that Santino studies in the school of Burr, an education that has allowed him to open up, be more opinionated, and do the comedy he wants to do. He explained to me that he is doing comedy for regular people, not comedy nerds. “I just think that we get so wrapped up in the standup comedy world of ‘What are the comedy fans going to think about this set I did on Conan or taped for Comedy Central?’ We get so worried and insecure. We need to remember that the country is bigger than that and the world is even bigger than that.”  

T.J. Miller – Meticulously Ridiculous (HBO)

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T.J. Miller has branded himself as one of the few absurdist comics working today. Combine that with his penchant for nihilism and the star power to pack out Denver’s Paramount Theater and you’ve got Meticulously Ridiculous, Miller’s first standup special for HBO. Miller tests the boundaries of the art form with prop gags, elaborate stories, stream-of-consciousness ramblings, tiny bursts of enlightenment, and lots of yelling. If his standup isn’t your bag, maybe check out Miller in The Emoji Movie, in theaters July 28th.

Rory Scovel – Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up for the First Time (Netflix)

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Rory Scovel and his ill-fitting jacket hit a Maria Bamford level of inventiveness with his newest special, the hilariously and misleadingly titled Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up for the First Time. After an opening rockstar dream sequence that ends with a rude awakening, he begins his set at Atlanta’s Relapse Theatre by spending nearly three minutes asking the audience if they’ve tried anal. That may sound terrible, but it isn’t. Scovel’s commitment to his bits — which are packed with tangential act-outs — is impressive. The special is also full of “Hey, look who it is!” cameos, including Jack White, Ben Kronberg, and Amber Nelson. It’s refreshing to see a comic actually having fun onstage. As he told us, “I think I’ve looked at all of my comedy as if it makes me laugh, that’s the thing I should try performance-wise.”

Chris D’Elia – Man on Fire (Netflix)

Chris D’Elia’s third comedy special delves a little deeper than his past releases. The special derives its name from the notion that none of us are the stars in the movies of our lives. We can’t all be Denzel Washington in Man on Fire, despite our narcissistic tendencies to view ourselves that way. D’Elia takes his own advice to heart. He’s getting older, just went through a breakup, and is placing almost all of his energy into his career, a decision that he hopes doesn’t negatively affect other relationships in his life. He told me, “Not to get all heady, but I’m just as lost as everyone else. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to take it day by day.” That humility and willingness to expose his own insecurities actually makes him a more interesting comic to watch.  

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