Stand-up News
July 9, 2023


July 9, 2023

Mike Binder

So I took a lot of incoming when I talked about another Netflix special that didn’t quite work for me —the 85 South special.

Now, don’t get me wrong, those guys are hilarious. Their off-the-cuff banter on the podcast is pretty damn good. But when it came to their Netflix special, it felt like they took a detour into improvisational hell. It was like they were just rolling with it, riffing their way through a show that should have been clubbed to death like a baby seal then shelved and re-shot once the guys wrote an act. And that’s where Segura comes in, armed with a well-crafted routine ready to beat a crowd senseless.

From the moment Segura struts onto that stage in “Sledgehammer,” you can feel electricity in the air. He’s firing on all cylinders, delivering punchlines like a Marvel Superhero. It’s as if he spent hours in a lab perfecting the timing of his jokes and the art of comedic precision. The guy is armed with a sledgehammer of laughter and he knows it. This is a special and he’s not taking any chances. He’s not making anything up. Not on this night. On this night he’s eating unleavened off the cuff laughs. He’s doing stuff he knows works and he’s out for blood.

Everything about the special is special. The production value, the lighting, the set design, his wardrobe, the whole thing—it’s like a visual feast for comedy lovers. Director Ryan Polito and his crew managed to capture Segura’s charisma and energy in a way that makes you feel like you’re part of the comedic revolution. There’s a reason it’s the Number one trending show on the platform all week. It’s not an accident. This was planned. A lot of work went into it and guess who did most of it? Tom Segura. He didn’t just let the director and the producer and Netflix and the promoter bust ass. He busted ass.

If you’re thinking wait, all comics that get specials work their asses off! You may be partially right. Not completely though. If they did, all of them would be this good. Bill Burr works this hard. I can tell you that with first hand knowledge. I’ve seen it twice in the two specials I directed and produced with him. Bill Burr understands like very few others what a special is. He works harder than anyone else I know. That’s how I know how good this one is and how bad some of the ones I’ve seen recently are. Marc Maron worked this hard on his recent HBO special.  So did Marlon Wayans. The audience smells it.

When I was a kid, the first time I was doing stand up, I didn’t get it. I would get laughs, but I wasn’t that good.  I didn’t put the work in. Jay Leno used to give me a hard time. We used to sit at his house and he’d lecture me. ‘You have no act, Binder. You just fuck around on stage. You make jokes with the curtains, talk to the audience, mess around. What jokes you do have you do the same ones every night and just throw them out there. It’s not an act. There’s no pace or energy to it. You’re not writing enough.’

He was dead on. Watch Sledgehammer. This is an act. He comes out and he’s performing. He’s putting on a show. He’s letting you in, revealing himself, yes, but he’s doing it as he’s performing a precise, well planned piece. At the end of the sixty one minutes you know one hell of a lot about him. About his life, his family, his kids, his mom and dad, his tour, and his friends. You know about him meeting and hanging out with Brad Pitt. But everything you learned was in well crafted, well worked jokes. There was no dead air. No lag. No lull. None. It all moves with a great flow.

Again, this may seem like no big deal. As if it doesn’t need to be said. Watch some of the other specials out there right now.  It’s not the norm, and where it is the norm, these are the stand outs. Shane Gillis’s special, like I said, the best of the George Carlin specials, Bring the Pain, From Bleak to Dark. I don’t think you see any of the great specials with any crowd work or even B+routines, the best are all cut to the bone, and all have a flow and some version of a theme. You watch closely you can get the sense that there really aren’t segueways needed because the bits lead into each other organically, as they’re all of a piece.

Watch Paper Tiger and notice how the whole special feels like a concept album in that basically it’s all about men and women. It’s almost all some version of dealing with relationships in the modern world.  It’s done in such an intelligent way that you don’t know Burr’s done it. Jumping back to his parents relationship, the future with robots, the present with the MeToo stuff, it’s seamless. He doesn’t need segueways.  You don’t even notice the shifts. Segura does the same thing here. It’s what Richard Pryor did with his early albums.

That’s what I mean by having a flow. Building an act. You take it for granted when you see it done right. You don’t even see the scene changes when it’s laid out well. And when it isn’t done right? You laugh, but you never get lost in an hour show. You watch it in pieces if you finish it at all. You move on feeling, ‘yeah, that was funny.’ but you don’t you think of it as a piece of art that you want others to see as well. A great stand up special is something you can’t wait to tell others to watch as a favor for them. A gift you want to bestow. A special, a set, a show can have a great title, amazing lighting, be mic’d crisply, but if it isn’t about something, if it isn’t always moving forward, drawing you in, telling you stories and making you want to understand the world this comic comes from like Ari Shaffir’s Jew, then it can be funny, it’s just can’t be special. It won’t be, …Wow.

Segura’s also wonderful here because he’s happy. He’s proud of himself and his art. He knows he’s doing a good job. He’s enjoying himself. He’s not rushing. He stops here and there and just smiles to us. Nods.

‘This is good stuff, huh?’

This is a nice piece they took out that he threw up on Youtube about his neighbor and buddy, Ted Cruz.