“Is It Me?” premiered on Netflix Tuesday, Dec. 6. This being Sebastian Maniscalco’s fifth comedy special, he decided to host it in the ever-so-elegant location of Las Vegas. In memory of a bygone era, Maniscalco asked the audience to dress up in classy clothing and even donned a tuxedo himself. Unfortunately, the memo didn’t reach every member of the audience, giving him an opportune moment to poke fun at any outliers.
A recurring subject of Maniscalco’s set — that he also opens with — is his wife. He first touches upon their weekly date nights and many of the idiosyncrasies she insists on doing that humorously piss him off. He has trouble understanding why she feels the need to take her shoes off in the car for a 10-minute commute or why she insists on planning family visits on their way to the restaurant table instead of once they are seated.
Maniscalco has a different feel during this set. The consensus among myself and my roommates was that his aging has caught up with him, especially when we realized his overall energy level was lower than it had been in previous specials. Personally, I missed how much he used to scream his punchlines in a thick Italian American accent for extra laughs.
Colby Soroka, my brother, roommate and a third-semester student at the University of Connecticut, also offered interesting insight on Maniscalco’s facial expressions.
“He looks at the camera like the audience said something off-putting,” Soroka said.
An overarching theme that Maniscalco subtly refers to at first — and then head-on confronts — is the emphasis of political correctness in today’s society. The topic is brought to the stage when doing a bit about a child in his daughter’s class who identifies as a lion. He tackles the subject somewhat gracefully without going heavy-handed into “cancel culture.” The bit then progresses through his point of view in a comparing and contrasting segment between his childhood and the current era.
After some light chuckles, the show finally quickens pace to the usual Maniscalco tempo. He brings back his acclaimed energy by screaming certain words and doing humorous impressions, specifically one of a greyhound. As a viewer, you can sense the energy of the crowd shifting to a more engaged and entertained atmosphere, and you can’t help but follow suit.
Maniscalco notices it too and uses this springboard to deliver a much more comical set in the back half of his special. He talks about the annoyances of paper straws and how awful they are when they get soaked. As someone who semi-regularly gets a smoothie from “Mango” at the Rec Center, I can easily relate to his frustrations.
He drives it home with a surprisingly humorous bit about aging and death. He says his eyes have been more open to the passage of time recently, as he’s been watching his father grow older. He then closes with several funny bits about issues that the elderly have to routinely deal with. The subsequent ending is rather abrupt. Just as Maniscalco starts to gain the most momentum, he decides to end the special.
Overall, “Is It Me?” has a slow start, which may wane the confidence of some loyal fans, but it ultimately delivers with some hearty jokes by its conclusion. If you are a Maniscalco fan, I’d recommend you watch the special and try to bear through the first 20-30 minutes until he gets to his better material. It’s definitely not his best special, but he does still deliver to some degree. However, if you’re looking for a quick break from studying to watch something amusing, I’d advise you look elsewhere unless you want to skip the first half entirely.