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NEAL BRENNAN: 3 MICS, a deeply honest standup special


Neal Brennan has been writing a lot for television over the years, including alongside fellow comedian Dave Chappelle.

His resume is impressive in terms of writing for other people, but in the world of writing and performing the written material, this is his first 75-minute comedy special. And, much like another Netflix special recently released, Nanette, the show adds that extra layer of confessional storytelling that standup often lacks.

In this special, the Chappelle’s Show co-creator performs onstage at three different mics – one for traditional standup, one for one-liners, and one for deep and honest stuff. The stand-up feels like his thing, he navigates it with comfort and confidence, the one liners are a bit awkward, as if he's trying it for the first time, and the confessional moment feels exactly as you would imagined - raw and emotional with a touch of oversharing.

About the idea to split the show in three, Brennan explains in a Vulture interview:

Well, I had jokes from Twitter that were just sitting there, and then I’d listen to The Moth a lot, and when I’d do podcasts I’d talk about serious stuff and people were always responsive. So I thought I should figure out a way to do Mothy-esque middle mic stuff, and then the Twitter stuff – they’re not all from Twitter, but just one-liners – and then regular standup. Because when you do standup, it just gets a little one-note in terms of, like, “Here’s another well-thought-out, perfectly surmised point of view!” Which is the great thing about standup, but when you’re doing it, there are points about 30 minutes in where the tone just gets really monotonous as a comedian and also as a viewer; there are very few standup hours that I think are good all the way through. So I figured, let’s just pare down the standup to the most potent parts, and then do a more honest or earnest middle mic thing, and then have the one-liners. [...] The standup part is pretty much who I am as a comedian – the stuff I like talking about, the stuff I’m decent at – so with that there’s not much I’m going to be able to alter. I’d have to go about it in a completely different, premeditated approach, which I don’t feel like I need to do. The thing I learned was more about the middle mic stuff. I guess I was able to surmise what comedy means to me, if that makes sense. Which is a really fucking corny thing to say, but I hope I said it in a way that wasn’t maudlin or something.

"The wiry, unprepossessing performer's stand-up routine deals with typical subjects: guns, aging, race relations, ISIS, relationship issues, sexual positions, etc. But the bits are perfectly calibrated, his subtle vocal inflections often causing the hilarious observations to sneak up on you. And he enlivens them with astute physicality, such as when he personifies testosterone — not a good influence on men, it seems — by miming one-armed push-ups.

Similarly, Brennan's one-liners, which he seems to be picking at random from several pages full of them, are very funny, if mostly silly and scattershot: "The Little League World Series … or, as pedophiles call it, the World Series." And my favorite, "The irony of the word 'Palestine' is how much like a Jewish last name it sounds."

But it's during the times when Brennan shifts to the middle mic, the one for "Emotional Stuff," that the evening takes on greater resonance. He movingly relates his longtime suffering from depression (he compares it to wearing a "weighted vest"); his years-long dependence on psychopharmaceuticals; his failed romantic relationships; his shame over treating his famous friends better than his non-famous ones; and, most especially, his tortured relationship with his abusive father, who died several years ago.

During these passages, Brennan is analytical, probing and also funny, carefully infusing even the most harrowing moments with tension-relieving jokes. More importantly, the personal revelations add fuel to his stand-up. Getting a glimpse of the inner man behind the comic façade adds an unexpected depth to even the more conventional routines. He begins one bit by saying, "I went to the doctor," then pauses, and adds in a sly, conspiratorial tone, "You know why." We do indeed, and the knowledge makes what follows all the funnier." (The Hollywood Reporter)

Check out the trailer below.

Tags:   news, comedy, stand up, storytelling, Neal Brennan, Neal Brennan 3 Mics




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