Published Jun 27, 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.
The natural state of jokes often includes bystanders, the butt of the joke. The ability to write and deliver a strong, biting joke without coming across like a mean, hateful person is a rare thing. It separates great comedians from mediocre ones and with One Shot, Tony Hinchcliffe — "The Golden Pony" as he's known — proves that he is, at only 30, a great comedian. Throughout his first hour special, Hinchliffe splits the difference between silly and cutting, slowly building layer upon layer in a way that allows him to go further from tasteful while keeping the audience on his side. Shot in one rich, dynamic take — no cuts or edits — One Shot is a masterful debut hour from a young, unassuming, stone-cold joke killer.
After a bit of light crowd work, Hinchcliffe starts off with a story about an encounter with a eye-patched store clerk that ends with the store clerk delivering a "five-star roast joke with a ten-minute delay attached to the bottom of it." Tony got a punch in, but by the end of the transaction, he's the butt of the joke. It's a quick, deft turn that gets the crowd on his side immediately.
A perfectly pitched joke about living in a predominantly gay neighbourhood uses his "gay as fuck" look to deconstruct society's preconceived notions and stereotypes about gay men. The stereotype is the victim here, not homosexuality; it's a textbook example of how to make a joke about a sensitive topic.
None of this is to say that Hinchcliffe is up there trying to save the world. He's just telling really, really good jokes. The majority of jokes on One Shot fall into the silly and absurd, if blue at times. He finds surprising new ground in the oft-covered world of "dick pics," interprets the musings of rap titan 2 Chainz and ponders the debacle that is the sleeping cap. An incredible bit about the glory of the handicapped stall in public washrooms slowly mutates into instructions on how to pull off a believable cerebral palsy walk. The man knows how to segue and connect ideas like few comedians working today.
All of the silliness and self-deprecation helps to build a cushion with the crowd as Hinchcliffe gives a smirk and starts into a long bit about Bill Cosby (one of his all-time favourites), Michael Jackson (one of all of our favourites), Gary Glitter and the battle between our conscience and desire for great art. You can feel the crowd tense up as he starts into it, but he oozes deft nimbleness and finds the laughs where there probably shouldn't be laughs. It's an incredible bit for any comedian to attempt and even more impressive to pull off and still be likeable at the end. Tony Hinchcliffe is a great comedian.