John Mulaney, The Comeback Kid
Delivery and timing is essential in comedy. John Mulaney knows just how to pull his audience into his stories, from stories of richly detailed jokes about the original “Comeback Kid” Bill Clinton in 1992, to self-deprecating humor about his flamboyant personality, all delivered with the confidence of someone who seems much older than himself. Mulaney hilariously impersonates people in his life. For example, while retelling his experiences of buying his first home, he impersonates an animated real-estate agent. Mulaney also impersonates his stern father who was envious about his mother dating Bill Clinton in college.
I think we can all see ourselves in Mulaney, especially in the beginning of the routine when he explains, “I was raised Catholic, I don’t know if you can tell that from the everything about me.”
Mulaney is credited with being the former head writer for Saturday Night Live, where he created iconic characters such as Stefan.
Bo Burnham, Make Happy
Bo Burnham became an overnight YouTube sensation in 2006 when he posted two songs, originally intended for his family. Now, Bo Burnham is a comedian, musician, singer, songwriter, rapper, actor, and has even released his first poetry book, Egghead.
Burnham’s humor primarily tackles the subjects of race, gender, religion, and even sexuality- which makes him very open to controversy.
When watching Burnham’s Netflix special, Make Happy, you can tell that every act he performs is planned and perfectly executed, like knocking down his water bottle on accident followed by a pre-recorded musical track mocking the audience: “He meant to knock the water bottle over, yeah, yeah, yeah. But you thought it was an accident. Art is a lie. Nothing is real.” It’s this nihilistic humor that makes Bo Burnham so sadistic yet so incredibly funny. I find myself (and others my age) quoting Burnham often, and Make Happy is a perfect introduction into the world of stand-up comedy for high-schoolers, especially with self-deprecating, dark humor on the rise among our age group. Burnham’s use of live music and instruments is a great add-in, too.
Ali Wong, Baby Cobra
Baby Cobra was filmed in September 2015 at the Neptune Theater in Seattle when Wong was seven months pregnant. It seems most comedians’ routines consists of stories about growing up and transitioning to adulthood, full of new experiences, which makes Wong’s Netflix special so original, yet fitting in so well into the comedic genre.
Being a woman in comedy is one way to put the spotlight of “Oh, I don’t see that very often…” but being in your third trimester and doing a stand-up routine? Can you imagine? Which is why Wong explains “It’s very rare and unusual to see a female comic perform pregnant, because … female comics don’t get pregnant. Just try to think of one. I dare you. There’s none of them. Once they do get pregnant they generally disappear.” Wong is not afraid to take chances in her routine, and calls normalcy to pregnant woman on the screen.
Based on how popular Joan Rivers was despite performing seven months pregnant in 1967, Ali Wong will not disappear, and hopefully others will follow her lead.
Chelsea Peretti, One of the Greats
It’s no doubt that the comedy world is mostly full of male comedians. We tend to notice when Netflix’s front page comedy specials include a woman performing. Fortunately, more women are coming to the front stage for comedy, including Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, and many many more. Chelsea Peretti takes this notion and puts a clever twist and attitude on it. “One of the Greats” is such an appropriate name because Peretti believes that “women are frequently seen as guests in the comedy world—you know, a kid sister of the ‘real comedians.’
I like the idea of positioning myself as legendary rather than trying to fit in. Now do I see myself like that every day? I think she has a funny attitude and maybe on some weird spiritual level maybe it’s a good attitude.” For example, claiming in her routine that “My fantasy of what it’s like to be a guy is you just wake up in the morning and your eyes open and you’re like, ‘I’m awesome!’” she belts onstage in her loudest singing voice. This is a stark contrast to the self-destructive humor of Mulaney and Burnham, but these two kinds of comedy can work on anyone.