If there’s one thing the Venice Film Festival proved, it’s that Hollywood is back. That’s right — stars are openly feuding, Tom Cruise is back to doing his own stunts, and red carpet style was finally up to par again.

Keep ReadingShow less

Was Janelle Monáe Attacked with "Too Much Tuna?"

John Mulaney and Nick Kroll think that giving people giant mounds of tuna fish is a fun prank, but mercury poisoning is no joke

Kroll Show - Oh, Hello - A Medically Inadvisable Amount of Tuna (ft. John Mulaney)

It was announced yesterday that Janelle Monáe will be joining the impressive lineup of musical acts performing at the Oscars this weekend.

Keep ReadingShow less

The Jonas Brothers' upcoming "Happiness Begins" tour is a nostalgic flash of early 2000s pop music, Disney Channel's golden age, and trendy purity rings that successfully marketed sex to tweens by constantly reminding them not to have sex.

Keep ReadingShow less
Film Lists

Your Friends Aren't Funny: Best and Worst Comedy Specials on Netflix

With Netflix green-lighting any project with shapes and colors, comedy specials range from amusing to mediocre to feeling as joyless as a DVD enthusiast.

Hannah Gadsby - Comedian

Photo by Marion Curtis (Shutterstock)

Netflix wants you to realize that you and your friends aren't funny.

With 47 new stand-up comedy specials released on New Year's Day alone, Netflix is banking on your life being so devoid of humor that you'll watch anything. As the company continues to outspend competitors like HBO and CBS, the streaming service is expected to spend $15 billion this year (up from $13 billion in 2018). While they at least do us the favor of keeping Richard Pryor: Live in Concert available to stream, they also green light any project that features shapes and colors.

Netflix's massive collection of comedy specials ranges from amusing to mediocre to feeling as joyless as a DVD enthusiast. Here are five recent specials worth your time–and five that can only be described as crimes against comedy.

1. John Mulaney - New in Town (2012) / Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (2018)

John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid | Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Of Mulaney's three specials, New in Town is required watching, partly due to his unassuming irreverence and partly due to the special's themes about alienation and social anxiety befitting a debut feature. But Kid Gorgeous at Radio City shows the former SNL-writer as a mature comic who's more stylized and practiced in his offbeat, "aw shucks" delivery.

2. Ali Wong - Baby Cobra (2016) / Hard Knock Wife (2018)

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Performing while seven months pregnant might be Wong's lucky charm. The Fresh Off the Boat-writer followed up her 2016 special, which inspired Halloween costumes riffing on her large glasses and short dress with a heavily pregnant belly, with a second feature and a second pregnancy. Hard Knock Wife delivers more of Wong's unapologetic humor, from mocking racial and gender stereotypes to comparing a new mother's v*gina to "two hanging dicks."

3. Hannah Gadsby - Nanette (2018)

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Gadsby's much-lauded comedy special taps into our recent interest in more empathetic stand-up. The Australian comedian unpacks queerness and gender biases by exploring her own trauma and identity conflicts–mixed with bawdy and incisive observational humor.

4. Iliza Schlesinger - Confirmed Kills (2016) / Elder Millennial (2018)

Iliza: Elder Millennial | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Schlesinger's style is so consistent and performative that you forget she got her start winning the lackluster stand-up competition Last Comic Standing in 2008. She's passionate about political issues, but she's also a millennial; her social commentary combines the two in manic bits promoting feminist messages while mocking "girl culture." As a result, some of her stream-of-conscious rants are brilliant, while others make you wonder, "Is that what 'problematic' means?" Both are worth it.

5. Hari Kondabolu - Warn Your Relatives (2018)

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Kondabolu is a nerd's comic. With a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, he is strikingly political, deadpan, and acerbic. If that's not to your taste, that's fine. As he self-deprecates in his set, his Indian mother doesn't get him either.

Crimes against comedy include:

1. Ken Jeong - You Complete Me, Ho (2019)

Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

He's the brilliant comedic mind that earned riotous acclaim in The Hangover in 2009 – as in, his unevolved humor is the exact same. From Asian stereotypes to dad-puns, Jeong switches from dirty jokes to praising his wife's survival of breast cancer with little to no segues.

2. Kevin James - Don't Never Give Up (2018)

Kevin James: Never Don’t Give Up | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

From 1998-2007, Kevin James was a popular choice for a generic sitcom oaf. Sadly, we've grown up since then. As shown by CBS's shortlived show Kevin Can Wait, which Vulture described as "exactly as awful as you imagined," James hasn't. Plus, he apparently really hates people with peanut allergies.

3. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney - Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017)

Oh, Hello Broadway | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

To be clear, we wanted to like this so badly. Between John Mulaney's awkward observational humor and Nick Kroll's sharp self-deprecation creating Big Mouth, there was promise in the two joining forces. If you were won over by the Kroll Show's popular Internet fodder, "Too Much Tuna," you'll probably think this special is fine.

4. Adam Sandler - 100% Fresh (2018)

ADAM SANDLER: 100% FRESH | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Between 1995 and 2007, many of us grew up under the auspices of Adam Sandler's fart jokes and falsetto nonsense. It's like he's who Kevin James wanted to be. But as we came of age, we had to confront difficult realities: the Tooth Fairy isn't real, WWE wrestling is staged, and Adam Sandler isn't funny.

5. Gabriel Iglesias - One Show Fits All (2019)

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias: One Show Fits All | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflixwww.youtube.com

Streaming anything by "Fluffy" is a waste of your bandwidth. But we have to admire him for being one of the richest yet universally unfunny comedians of our time.

POP⚡DUST |

The "Captain Marvel" Backlash Isn't Sexist—That's Just the Internet

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Is Pete Davidson "Ugly Hot" Enough to Be the Next Steve Buscemi?


REVIEW | Big Mouth Season Two: Because Thirteen-Year-Olds Are Disgusting

In Season 2, the animated Netflix comedy takes on bigger issues and earns bigger laughs.

When you think of the coming-of-age stories that shaped your journey to adulthood, you probably don't describe them with phrases like "cum-drenched."

But with the second season of Netflix's animated comedy series Big Mouth, it's difficult to avoid graphic descriptors because the series is, well, graphic.

Twelve year old girls learning how to love their naked bodies in a Korean spa, boys succumbing to the urge to masturbate to a drying bikini, and a gym teacher losing his virginity with his student's mother; these would all make for a live action show so dirty that the raunch would inevitably overshadow the importance of the subject matter. While other adult animated series like South Park and Family Guy have used the anything-goes freedom of animation to shock, amuse, and occasionally disgust their audiences, Big Mouth uses it to take an otherwise impossibly honest look at the grossest, most uncomfortable stage in everyone's life. The medium allows the show to do something teen sex comedies have never managed before: maintain the innocence of the young characters while simultaneously showing the grotesque banalities of puberty.


Compared to Season one, the comedy's second season takes the absurdity to a darker, more honest place. The audience gets an even deeper look into the psychology of early teenagerhood, bad decisions and all. But the characters remain not only likable, but almost painfully relatable. For example, Zeke — whose romantic relationship with his pillow the audience had to endure in the first season — remains unwaveringly optimistic and child-like. We can't help but feel for him, and even like him, despite his public masturbation habits. Andrew, who we see haunted by the shame monster because of his desire to "rub fronts" with a girl he doesn't really like, is so conflicted about the "perverted" thoughts he can't seem to squelch, that he continually and heart-wrenchingly tells his puberty monster that he's "just trying to be a decent guy." This duality allows the audience to see their own puberty in a different light, perhaps undoing some of the inevitable shame we all carry with us out of our early teenage years. Big Mouth says, "We're all disgusting at thirteen. It's part of it. Let's talk about it."

Don't get us wrong, Big Mouth isn't exactly a feel-good, family program. There are plenty of cringe-worthy moments, but the show manages to also weave in some important narratives on sexuality. For example, when Gina, a girl in the boy's grade, develops before the other girls, the boys learn that there's nothing wrong with liking boobs but that they have to remember to view women holistically. This lesson doesn't prevent any raunch or hilarity, but instead comes as a byproduct of clever writing and carefully considered plot lines. Big Mouth puts to rest the age-old argument that comedy of this kind must come at the price of misogyny.

What creators Nick Kroll, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, and Andrew Goldberg do so well in Big Mouth is invite the audience to laugh with the struggling teenagers, not at them. They present us with three dimensional people on the cusp of adulthood, and allow them to be more than the butt of dirty jokes.

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

POP⚡DUST | Read More…

Nominations are In - Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to Induct New Artists

Montel Williams Suffered a Stroke

Taylor Swift Gets Political

Music Monday

MUSIC MONDAY | 2018 Emmy Awards’ Top Songs, Musicians, Theme Music, and More

09.17.18 | Nominees and Winners Singing Emmy's Praises

Tonight, TV fans will be tuning in to the 70th Annual Emmy Awards ceremony.

Actors and actresses and those behind the scenes and the camera will be decked out in their designer duds, cheer for small screen celebs, and hope to take home a shiny statuette. But there's more to television than scripts and storylines…make room for MUSIC! What better way to kick off this week than with a Music Monday dedicated to the songs and all things surrounding them that made this TV season music to our ears?!

Keep ReadingShow less