If you cannot wait for the next new Bill Burr stand-up special to premiere, then, well, this will have to suffice. It’s Burr telling jokes but ultimately presiding over a comedy showcase where he got to book the entire lineup, filmed a month ago at the inaugural Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival, in Los Angeles.
The Gist: This is the first of eight comedy showcases filmed at Netflix’s comedy festival in May to hit the streaming platform in June.
For Bill Burr’s showcase, his curated lineup featured Michelle Wolf, Jimmy Carr, Steph Tolev, Jeff Ross and Dave Attell, Ian Edwards, Joe Bartnick, Jessica Kirson, Josh Adam Meyers and the Goddamn Comedy Jam Band, and Ronny Chieng. Dean Delray, who opens for Burr on the road, also performed here (as seen in the backstage footage), but didn’t make the cut for the Netflix special proper.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: The vibe: A night at the comedy club. This kind of special used to be more of a thing in the pre-streaming days, where the star attraction would front a variety special on network TV, and introduce you to other talented performers, except in Burr’s case, most of the lineup is already well known to comedy fans. For a recent example elsewhere, perhaps Mo’Nique & Friends: Live From Atlanta from 2020 on Showtime?
Memorable Jokes: Burr sets the bar high by starting off the show with eight to nine minutes of killer new jokes about how we’re seemingly over the pandemic and not listening to doctors any longer, despite all of the evidence pointing to medical and scientific progress benefitting us.
He also has a chunk on Kyle Rittenhouse that’s almost guaranteed to piss off everybody, mocking people who defend the teen as somehow patriotic, giving the boy props for somehow lucking into killing two people society despised even more than him, then imagining the conversation Rittenhouse must’ve had with his mother before she drove him to Kenosha two summers ago.
Burr’s first two guests, Michelle Wolf and Jimmy Carr, have their own Netflix specials already. Here, they get on and offstage in shorter sets of less than 10 minutes each. Wolf used her time to focus on how her fellow white women are all-too-often problematic. Why? “I make fun of white women a lot. But only because it’s fun and easy.” Carr seemed more intent on reminding us that his offensive one-liners are going out of style among the kids these days, noting “what I’m saying onstage tonight is barely acceptable now.”
Steph Tolev, who’d also appeared on Burr’s 2020 Comedy Central showcase (Bill Burr Presents: The Ringers), got Burr’s attention with a raunchy set about how she cleaned up on Tinder during pandemic, but particularly with a PSA to the fellas to wash and clean their genitals to avoid “middle of a book stink.” As Burr noted afterward: “I don’t even read and I know what that smells like!”
Jeff Ross and Dave Attell, who brought their Bumping Mics duo act to Netflix in 2018, roasted each other and Burr for a few minutes halfway through the showcase.
Second-half highlights included Ian Edwards finding “a loophole” for Michael Jackson fans to remain fans of his music, as well as discovering a link between The Handmaid’s Tale and Harriet Tubman; Joe Bartnick celebrating his dad bod and defending Tiger Woods; Jessica Kirson impersonating two high-pitched young women talking nonsense, then imagining herself having sex with a woman like that; and Ronny Chieng closing out the night by singing Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” with Josh Adam Meyers and his Goddamn Comedy Jam Band.
Our Take: I saw Burr in person the night following this taping, where he headlined The Forum (you know, where the Lakers were Winning Time in the 1980s) and where Delray joked about the crowd hating him at the Netflix taping. While I may have looked forward to seeing Burr’s material leading off his new hour, it makes much more sense for him to release it now while his takes on the pandemic and Rittenhouse were still slightly fresh. Besides, if you’re going to present a special and tell us “we’ve got nothing but killers on this show,” then it’s best to remind us you’re a killer comedian, too.
Of all of the guests on the showcase, Wolf delivered the strongest set. But there’s a downside of having your best performers go up early, because then the remaining 45 minutes begin to drag by comparison.
When introducing Kirson, Burr described her as the kind of act who’s tough to follow. The irony may be that in building a show where the best two comedians already have killed, there’s nothing left for the audience to give the rest of the performers.
Then again, the audience may have been tougher than the comedians expected.
The crowd didn’t quite appreciate Chieng’s timely references as he cited “Netflix’s stock prices” among the reasons we all needed cheering up.
And Burr found himself railing against them when they pushed back on a tag during his bit about feeling more comfortable about COVID vaccines since they rolled them out in Britain first, and not Haiti. “You’re groaning history,” Burr chastised his crowd. “You f—ing pussies!”
Our Call: STREAM IT. But really only for the first 20 minutes. Watch Burr and Wolf, then leave on a good note.
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.