Neal Brennan’s new comedy special is also his favourite party trick. The “bone-thin liberal” reels you in with a nimble first half, in which Brennan calls us out on every reaction we’ve had this year to… well, everything, making his way onto your side without crossing too many lines – “are you exhausted by Kanye West?” he baits. Do you find yourself playing politically correct conversational Jenga all the time (too)? Have we stopped to think long enough about why we are still peddling ideas that were legitimately great in the 1700s? And is it finally time we did?
A few sharp rounds of ‘How Liberal Are You?’ see Brennan in good form; observational routine with relaxed delivery, casual needling and playing around with physical blocks he claims to have been tricked into using on his stage. It’s when he’s sure you’ve eased in that he starts to put down metaphorical blocks to reveal a traumedic second half with a recurring theme: “something’s wrong with me”. There are relatable situations in which we’ve all second-guessed ourselves, specifically relationships, and a name-droppy story you’re sure to thoroughly enjoy. There’s also a peek into the minds of comedians still trying to find their rightful place, with sly jabs at his colleagues that include global comedy heavyweights like Dave Chappelle. But it’s in that final push to the darkest corners of his own brain, where the shards of childhood trauma and mental health lie waiting, that the masterful ebb and flow of the second half begins. You find yourself holding on for Brennan, allowing him to take his time to navigate all three spaces — never afraid to build up the tension, and in absolutely no hurry to release it. It’s at the razor-sharp edge between art and artist, comedy and trauma that Brennan keeps hauling us back to that the power of this special lies. Because the thing that’s wrong with Brennan is the thing that’s wrong with a lot of us, and maybe it’s a sign that a punchline isn’t coming.
Or maybe we all just need to grab a bag of shrooms and watch Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which is tbh the only recommendation that’s made any sense this year. Meanwhile, don’t Google what a Pavlok is.
Watch Blocks this Sunday for exactly the kind of existential crisis you were hoping to avoid before a new week begins. Godspeed.
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