Everyone appreciates a comedy show that helps them relax. When we decide to watch a comedy, we want something that will make us laugh. I’m not talking about an occasional chuckle or slight smile; we want to cry tears of laughter. Ideally, we want the kind of show we need to take a break from because of how much we’re laughing. Netflix houses a good amount of these kinds of comedy specials. However, I regret to admit that their new special, “Neal Brennan: Blocks,” is not one of these lighthearted comedies.
Brennan’s special did have some good aspects. For example, he outlines his screenplay using a set of blocks that represent various aspects of his life. This choice not only creates a nice illustrative backdrop, but also adds an interactive element to the special. Brennan arranges the blocks randomly throughout the show, making the audience wonder which one he’ll pick up and explain next. Some never get picked up, while others are moved multiple times and have prolonged stories behind them.
Another factor of Brennan’s comedy special that I appreciated is something that many of my favorite comedians do as well: using jokes as a segway into an expression of opinion on a particular topic. Sometimes these exclamations are enlightening, sometimes they’re aggravating and sometimes they’re relieving. I believe that these snippets make the show feel more personal as the audience can learn about another side of a comedian apart from simply being funny. Whenever comedians do this, it creates a stronger, more intimate connection with the audience that cannot be overlooked.
As those of many comedians do, Brennan’s tangents often touch upon controversial topics, one of which is gun control. He explains the statistics behind gun violence and how the tragedies of gun violence come in multiple forms. While still maintaining that gun violence in schools and other public areas is disgusting and disheartening, he sheds light on how suicide and self-harm also contribute to the all-too-high number of gun deaths. Brennan critiques those who believe that gun control is the only solution and that mental health can be overlooked. He urges people not to stop at one or the other, but instead to strive to accomplish both.
While Brennan is undoubtedly an excellent public speaker, his profession is in comedy. He has some good moments scattered throughout the show whenever he touches on why he doesn’t want kids, his weird relationship with his dog or what it was like dating a model — spoiler, it wasn’t all that great. However, there is a rather dismal motif Brennan squeezes in far too many moments: the phrase “something’s wrong with me.”
When done correctly, self-deprecating humor can actually be the best kind of humor; it is ironically sad, yet relatable to an extent. Unfortunately, it feels like Brennan takes the self-deprecation to the point where it comes across as self-pity, especially when nearing the end of the special. He closes the show in a somber tone expressing how he feels like he is not successful enough in any aspect of his life. He’s almost begging both himself and the audience to accept him and tell him that he is enough. It’s a weighty topic that may be better suited for a one-on-one conversation, not a comedy show.
Everyone is entitled to a personal preference when it comes to humor, so while I may not have enjoyed this comedy thoroughly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else won’t. I encourage you to take the time to make a judgment for yourself. If you don’t find yourself switching to another show halfway in, you may have just discovered your new favorite comedian.