Published Nov 10, 2017Beautifully and starkly shot, Judah Friedlander's Netflix offering feels like less of a conventional special and more like a feature film.
Sure, he's a standup onstage at New York City's Comedy Cellar, delivering thoughtfully crafted and occasionally improvised jokes in front of crowds. But where his contemporaries usually capture a worked-over act via a single show and spruce it all up as a contained, Technicolor spectacle, America is the Greatest Country in the United States is actually a gritty document with an implicit narrative arc.
Friedlander's premise is topical, as he tackles the current and strangely misguided strain of American exceptionalism with playful boasts that are meant to highlight how silly and wrong-headed Americans trumpeting their country really are. This approach manifests itself via standalone jokes, but also through a bit where Friedlander solicits audience questions about his hypothetical presidential platform.
Coupled with his hilarious survey of how other nations rank against the U.S., it's a truly remarkable display of crowd work, not only exhibiting Friedlander's comedic chops, but his formidable curiosity and breadth of knowledge about the world beyond America.
Though everything's shot in rooms at the Comedy Cellar and Friedlander appears outfitted in the same "World Champion" garb he's known for throughout, this film captures different time periods between 2016 and the present. There's nothing chronological here, but there is a temporal and mood shift at play, as America grapples with life just before and now with a self-admitted sex offender/human cartoon as president.
He's the personification of the mistrusting, blaming, blindly proud nationalism that Friedlander skewers and, with its tightly framed angles and rogue cinematography, America is the Greatest Country in the United States performs this artful task of highlighting one of the most absurd, uncomfortably heavy periods in modern American history in an altogether entertaining and intelligent manner. (Netflix)