The Bromance Collective continues to thrive
Hilarity for Charity
I’ve barely scratched the surface of my endless queue of Netflix comedy, but when Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity comedy special debuted yesterday, it made immediate top-of-the-queue viewing. Seth Rogen is one of those comedy dudes I just have this weird, Jewish crush on. In fact, the whole Judd Apatow bromance collective (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, etc.) is a bunch of funny, charming fellas and I’ll watching anything they do.
Seth Rogen has actually been hosting the Hilarity for Charity event since 2012, I’ve since learned, although this is the first year it’s airing publicly. It makes sense, financially – Rogen, along with his wife, Lauren Miller, are raising money for Alzheimer’s, which affects Lauren’s mother. Opening up the charity to the millions on Netflix seems like a no-brainer. And it becomes a running gag of the night, too: Rogen tries to increase the special’s popularity by doing a number of different skits that would get the show sorted into various categories on Netflix. There’s a fake documentary, a Chris Hardwick talk show, and even an earnest Muppets sing-along, in a silly attempt to appeal to everyone who uses Netflix.
This break-the-Netflix-algorithm bit is an effective frame to the show and keeps the pacing steady, but it’s periodically interrupted by some of the best stand-up comedians working right now. John Mulaney, Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Michelle Wolf, and Michael Che all have short five-to-seven minute sets, carving out sharp jokes that make the show worth the watch for those who aren’t fans of hokey variety show bits.
Despite the variety (ba-dum-tss!), my favorite thing about the event – which also featured a thoughtful, honest discussion about the seriousness of Alzheimers – was that the show felt like Rogen had just compiled a bunch of bits and jokes that were mostly just funny to him. After a crude short cartoon by Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland, Rogen returns to the stage, saying, “oh, that made me so happy.” All of the dick and poop jokes may not be for everyone, but he likes them. And it’s his fundraising show.
Pete Holmes is Still Crashing
Speaking of boys in the Apatow constellation that I like, the newest addition to the club, Pete Holmes, is just delightful. You might already listen to his engaging podcast, You Made it Weird, or watch his Apatow-produced HBO show Crashing, which I covered when it first debuted. Now with its second season complete on HBO, Crashing is still one of my favorite comedies. It showcases enough of the New York standup scene to fill the hole that FX’s Louie left. Season Two follows Pete through a series of standard down-on-your-luck scenarios: a terrible one-night stand, religious doubts, jealousy of other comedians’ success, illegal shenanigans with his wife’s new lover, Leif. But all of this helps Pete “find himself” this season. He’s not as cringe-worthy on stage as Season One Pete, and he starts to find his niche crowd (he’s especially successful while at a comedy conference to book college gigs). He even starts to take the one-night-stand girl on dates.
My favorite of the 8-episode season, though, has to be the finale, “Roast Battle.” Spoiler alert from here on out! Roasts are always silly good fun, even artificial ones written for a scripted show. Throw in Pete’s character, who is a nice Christian boy who wouldn’t intentionally make fun of anyone, and the situational comedy is palpable. Surprisingly, Pete does well enough in the roast battle to advance to the finals, using those newly-honed comedy skills he’s been sharpening all season. The final battle, of course, comes down to Pete and Ali, his one-night-stand-turned-relationship that’s still too new to withstand it. When Ali throws some hard punches, Pete’s brain freezes. In the moment, he can’t separate the comedy from the hurtful things she’s saying about him.
I’ve been thinking about this battle scene since the season ended last month. It was the perfect setting to close Pete’s arc, to make him face the duality of his life in one sharp moment on stage – that nice Christian boy is throwing out one-liners about his girlfriend’s nipple hair while standing in front of her. Not to mention Pete’s ex-wife and her lover show up to the show, too, and the mess of everyone in Pete’s life watching him have this moment on stage was a deeply complicated moment I wasn’t expecting. It’s no surprise that Pete’s relationship doesn’t make it through the roast battle – he’s not at that stage yet where he can separate the public and the personal. But he’ll get there. It’s one of the best things about this show. As Josh Sorokach observes at Decider: “There’s something cozy about watching a person trying to piece together the A through L so they can eventually get to Z.”
header image: production still from hilarity for charity / netflix