By JONATHAN POLSON
Instant streaming is no longer an untapped medium when it comes to entertainment. Smaller movies are often released via video-on-demand formats before even making a big screen debut, and the Netflix originals “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” have proven that instantaneous, all-at-once entertainment is the new go-to format. Now even comedians, such as Aziz Ansari and Bo Burnham, are taking advantage of this arena, ditching the classic HBO special – the former sign of truly making it in comedy – and opting to release stand-up specials on Netflix. This past Friday, Nov. 14, Chelsea Peretti released her dynamic, bizarre and completely hilarious special “One of the Greats.”
Peretti told Vulture that she chose Netflix because it’s a service that she actually uses and that, in the internet age, it’s ultimately more strategic to put out content that is instantly accessible rather than the old-school network format, where a special would be aired at a certain time only.
The tricky part of this format for comedy, though, is that the standard, one-hour stand-up performance is usually no longer sufficient to capture and maintain the attention of viewers who have such a wide breadth of choices available just two clicks away. Peretti is able to sidestep this issue by offering something that is more than a special.
The show begins with Peretti riding a motorcycle through her hometown of the Bay Area, with a deep-throated voiceover chronicling her journey to this point. It’s this absurd, faux-serious approach to comedy that makes Peretti stand out amongst other comedians. Her meta-performance, from the moniker as “One of the Greats,” to the shots of Peretti herself dressed as a clown taunting her on-stage self, to the staged audience reactions, these are all aspects that make the special more than just an hour of sidesplitting comedy. The performance is part of a grander commentary on the darker sides of the jokes.
Peritti’s humor is so well crafted that it’s impossible to miss the message. From pointing out the absurd, commonly accepted “humor” of male-dominated comedy to her self-deprecating commentary on conventional gender roles, Peretti does more than tell jokes, she gets the viewer to think about why they’re laughing.
Peretti’s humor is more than just observational; it is almost confrontational in its commentary. The tone is set at the beginning of the special, when Peretti places her hand on her hip, juts her torso forth a bit and exclaims, “I like to always get into a stand-up stance, you know? Just, I always put my arm here so you guys will be like, ‘Uh-oh. Looks like this comedian’s probably going to be telling it like it is.’”
The joke is tongue-in-cheek and perfectly captures what Peretti does best – acknowledging and highlighting the absurdities of the world and leaving it to the audience to figure why they’re laughing so hard.