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THE REAL REEL | Showtime's 'I'm Dying Up Here' is Everything

This Show Asks Us to Embrace Our Humanity and to Look Ahead with Hope. It Also Shows Us Just How Hard This is to Do.

By "everything," I mean it checks all the boxes of an addictive, binge-worthy show.

Boxes like great characters, great writing, great set, beautifully captured '70s era, a plot you are excited about and engaged with…but several episodes in realize you don't really care about the plot because you could watch these characters do nothing all… day… long. Sadly you can't watch them do nothing all day long…but you can watch them for a solid hour, one episode at a time, and I can't get enough of them. The fact that this show also checks my "Real Reel" boxes of incorporating aspects of race, class, and gender struggles is just heaven.

Most people would rather eat live worms than to perform stand up comedy. I'm not one of those people. For a hot minute I dabbled in stand up…and by hot minute I mean I took one measly stand up class thinking I would learn a little about writing material. I was shocked to find out that there would be a live, end-of-class stand up performance in front of our friends and family, and anyone else we were dumb enough to invite. Of course some people fled the class after finding out that tiny performance requirement. I did not. Instead, I got a stomachache, lots of anxiety, and plunged ahead. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Some people jump out of airplanes, some people don't floss regularly, and some people do stand up. It is just one example of a high that can be extremely invigorating or a total crash and burn. I say all this to let my readers know that my five minutes attempting to be publicly and purposefully funny clearly makes me an expert to review this show from a "comic" perspective. Hopefully you get my sarcasm here.

Don't watch this show because you love stand up and truly appreciate comics; although what kind of un-self-deprecating-confidant-self-esteem-fueled monster doesn't? Watch this show because you love dynamic, nuanced, multi-faceted characters; characters who are confidant savants in one realm, and complete idiots in others. Characters you will relate to because they succeed and fail as often as you and I do. These characters make you uncomfortable, sad, and proud. They are full bodied, well-rounded, and beautifully flawed. They are not "just gay" or "just Black" or "just a feminist" or "just a junkie". While these characters struggle with deeply personal issues pertaining to their race, class, and gender, it is never just one issue or struggle that defines them. Their race intersects with their sexuality; their economic background challenges their reproductive path, their abusive path butts up against their masculinity. For every idiosyncrasy you hate about one of the characters, there is something about them you will love equally.

You will watch this show and forgive yourself for transgressions you were both aware of, and unaware of. This show begs us to acknowledge our past, validate all the ways others have hurt us as well as all the ways we have hurt others…but not to be consumed, defined, and limited by these assaults. This show asks us to embrace our humanity and to look ahead with hope. It also shows us just how hard this is to do.

A joke is just a joke, but comedy is a moment of connection. This show pierces us right in the heart of everything that matters, and dare I say…connects us to our higher purpose.


By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, is a writer, a personal coach, and even though she is very very fun (just ask her three-year-old daughter) due to her academic inclinations, always the pooper at the party. She works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding from her two children in her laundry room. More about her on her website.

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