Published May 10, 2016Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.
John Mulaney is one of the most immediately likable people working in comedy today. The ex-Saturday Night Live writer and touring standup comedian is perhaps best known — if not by name — for co-creating Bill Hader's infamous character Stefon on SNL. Mulaney's standup, while not being quite as over-the-top as that example, is clever and relatable with just a hint of the outlandish. His Netflix special The Comeback Kid is a brilliant hour of neurotic insight, terrific storytelling and unaffected comedy gold.
Mulaney is a classic comedian head to toe. His timing, topics and demeanour harken back to a golden age of comedy without bearing the faintest whiff of glitzy nostalgia. Dressed in a three-piece suit, the comedian wouldn't be out of place behind a bank counter — Mitch Hedberg he is not.
Mulaney — now in his early 30s — is awfully young to be performing traditional standup with as much subtlety and panache as he does. In The Comeback Kid, his main topics of contention and focus look very run-of-the-mill on paper. He talks about getting married, whether or not to have children, his parents, his childhood vs. kids these days — all age-old comedy touchstones that, in the wrong hands, seem tired and hackneyed. Through Mulaney however, material that might seem enormously cliché and boring is given new life. His material may be of a predictable nature, but his angle and his delivery are certainly not.
That said, Mulaney is not some lost generation's comedian. He does bear some resemblance to modern standup more typical of his age bracket. His recounting of awkward situations is always a riot, but he seems hesitant to take those moments as far into cringe territory as many of his contemporaries for whom the phrase "awkwaaaard" is a lucrative, ubiquitous battle cry. He doesn't need to. His writing and his command of the stage are more than enough to keep viewers laughing and invested. To ham up any of his material would be to make him less of a relatable figure, which is half of Mulaney's charm.
The Comeback Kid is a subtle knockout of a performance, without a doubt one of the funniest, most intelligent Netflix comedy specials of 2015.