The opening credits establish an even longer title for Moses Storm’s debut comedy special, as HBO Max informs us that it’s actually Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco Presents Moses Storm: Trash White. How does seeing Conan’s name or Team Coco inform your expectations or anticipation for what comes next?
The Gist: Conan and his Team Coco originally announced they’d make a special with Moses Storm for HBO Max back in 2020, but the pandemic has had a way of delaying and/or sidetracking everyone’s plans.
Storm performed on Conan back in 2017, and toured with O’Brien in 2018-2019. During that time, he also scored a recurring role as Squirrel Watterson on This Is Us, the fifth season of Arrested Development, and a lead role in Sunnyside, which NBC buried in 2019. You may also recognize Storm from his supporting roles on th e big screen recently in The Lovebirds and Plan B. He’ll be seen soon int he upcoming Freeform series, Everything’s Trash, starring Phoebe Robinson, as Robinson’s best friend and roommate.
Speaking of trash, yes, the stand-up comedian is flipping the script, so to speak, on the idea of growing up as “white trash,” with an intricately-staged hour designed to make you feel what he felt growing up poor in America.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: As the star of his own one-man show, Storm’s storytelling and flair puts him somewhere between Mike Birbiglia and John Leguizamo.
Memorable Jokes: Storm didn’t mean to have his Bob Saget story arrive at such a bittersweet moment in the immediate aftermath of Saget’s sudden death, but coming halfway through the hour, it’s a bit of a showstopper even without the coincidental timing of it all. You see, Storm’s mother had a harebrained scheme to win $10,000 for her and the kids by staging a bit for America’s Funniest Home Videos, but young Moses was only 2, and his mother’s stage direction wasn’t always clear. You’ll get to see it all unfold for yourselves, as Storm plays the outtakes for us all, and lets us know exactly how it all turned out for them.
As the trailer makes clear, Storm also regales us with a tale of how his mom made him attend cheerleading camp with his sisters to save a few bucks. He also describes what it was like dumpster-diving for food trying to break into country club swimming pools, and trying to lose his virginity under a “junk blanket.”
Our Take: It’s a bit of a magic trick for a comedian to stand on a meticulously-designed stage, dressed head-to-toe in white to match the stage and the objects upon it, and then mock the “modern-day comedy special” for sometimes seeming more like a TED Talk than anything resembling funny, only to follow that by saying: “I have nothing of educational value to add to your night…I just want to tell you what it feels like to be poor.”
Even when he acknowledges he looks like a privileged rich kid who endured no difficulties whatsoever, the kind of punk who hosts a YouTube prank channel.
To be fair, Storm actually comes off with vibe here fit to be cast as Crispin Glover’s kid. That would hew to Storm’s overall premise that “crazy will always beat scary.”
Directed by the comedian along with Lance Bangs, he makes full use of the stage, even displaying photos of his younger “little lady” self onto it, with a camera perched above that Storm directly plays to from time to time. And he does convey the fear that comes along with growing up poor, how the lack of stability, housing, food, how it all might prompt the impoverished to make bad decisions. As he notes more than once, though, Storm got lucky to get where he is now, performing comedy for a living. Which means he can laugh about his past now. Which is truly lucky, indeed.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Talk about crazy scary. When is the last time you saw a stand-up comedian follow a closing bit with a cliffhanger!?! If you watch til the end, you’ll be as intrigued as I was to hear Storm say the introduction for “Part Two.”
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.