Mirrorball (Miami sFF Review): A Passionate Tribute to La La Land
Mirrorball is full of passion and love for the medium of cinema and is indeed a fitting love letter to La La Land.
Incluvie Film Contest | Open Submissions Deadline August 1, 2023
Comedy is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, much older than the cinematic medium of feature films. This is likely due to the freedom to express ideas that (hopefully) bypass mental defenses. Just you, the microphone in your hand, and an audience to openly express yourself. As promised, here are nine more comedians to add to your laugh track in 2023.
Chelsea’s latest special, now streaming on Netflix, feels like a follow-up to her previous stand-up special from 2020, Evolution. If Evolution is a life-changing therapy session, Revolution is a trip to the rage room. Chelsea Handler’s comedy isn’t for the faint at heart because she doesn’t pull her punches. Some of her material is confrontational, especially in Revolution, where she calls out toxic white men while relating traumatic anecdotes. Her brand of dark humour is politically charged and often consists of jokes about subjects everyone isn’t comfortable joking about, like the Holocaust. Rest assured, none of the comedy makes light of tragedy, but rather points fingers at those who should be held accountable. Men like Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais are often lauded for being bold and uncompromising with the subject matter of their material, and Handler is out there being the same. She’s claiming the space that should have been shared to start with. And she isn’t being transphobic while doing so!
When it comes to women doing stand-up on global platforms, Iliza Shlesinger is a veteran. Her first stand-up special, War Paint, was released on Netflix in 2013. She has a staggering total of six specials on Netflix. Her work also stays incredibly fresh. Hot Forever sees her at her fiercest, with the closing thirty minutes of the special tackling heavy subjects like social media bullying and abortions. Iliza’s always fought back against patriarchy with her material and while she has tackled serious subjects in the past, she is bolder than ever in Hot Forever. It’s my favourite stand-up special by Iliza, but I would urge you to watch all her content. Her jokes are biting, funny, and brilliantly acted out. Her comedy is less about anecdotes and more like skits. She is incredibly talented at voice modulation and her acting itself demands all the laughter in the world.
This Bo Burnham directorial is the most experimental stand-up special on this list. Kate Berlant has been on the comedy scene for a long time, and you’ve probably heard of her if you frequented live shows and comedy festivals. If not, you can now enjoy her absurdist humour online. In June 2022, her hour-long special, Would It Kill You to Laugh?, performed with John Early, and composed of skits and short videos, premiered on Peacock. Soon after, her solo special, Cinnamon in the Wind, was released on FX. Kate’s work is contemplative, poetic, and surreal. Even in front of a live audience, she plays with the viewer-performer relationship and her crowd work sometimes makes it feel like an improv show as well. There’s one memorable, somewhat controversial, bit in which Kate ponders on what the ideal woman POTUS candidate would be like if the country’s demographic never evolved. Other than that, she uses the medium to create a transcendental experience that feels like a deconstruction of stand-up comedy itself. Burnham’s direction is a major contributor. His own comedy often plays with the format of the medium and his expertise at it shines here as the camera work complements Kate’s whimsical changes of conversational directions.
Whitney Cummings is another veteran of the game and her style has evolved so much over the years! Her specials, Money Shot and I Love You premiered on Comedy Central in the early 2010s. The material was almost entirely focused on experiences and shortcomings in the bedroom with straight men, and the problematic expectations imposed by society when it comes to sex. She seems reluctant to go the distance in calling out patriarchy, but one also has to consider the socio-political climate of that time. Her fourth special, Can I Touch It?, touches on more serious subjects like sexual harassment. Jokes, also hosted on Netflix, is the best-rounded of all her specials. Not only is she no longer pulling punches, but she’s also being performative, and making more sex jokes! There’s something in Jokes for everyone. She even calls out R. Kelly in a hilarious bit where she performs a dance move. You will have to find out the punchline of the joke by yourself.
Sex-positivity doesn’t come with an age limit. Jackie Fabulous is here to make that point in truly fabulous fashion. In her first-ever stand-up special, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Jackie talks about life as a black woman in her 50s. From being on lockdown with her mother who hasn’t left behind her Jamaican ways, to moving back to the Bronx, where she was born and raised, Jackie has a plethora of interesting experiences and entertaining storytelling that makes for a fun watch. She promotes body positivity and addresses the hurdles of having an active dating and sex life at her age. Her stories are endlessly funny.
Helen Hong has been performing stand-up regularly for a long time at venues like The Laugh Factory and The Hollywood Improv. Well Hong is her debut stand-up comedy special streaming on Amazon Prime Video in 2022. Helen Hong talks about her experiences dating doomsday preppers and explaining to people that she is Korean and that China isn’t the only nation in Asia. If you enjoy observational humour that is politically charged, but still polite and mainly focused on the absurdity of real life, you should give her a chance. Her Korean parents wouldn’t approve of her almost giving birth, but she recounts the tale to us animatedly while making us promise not to sell her out.
Christina Pazsitzky is for controversial viewers. She is a comedian with a flair for the dramatic who will have you declaring war. Her first solo stand-up special came out on Netflix in 2017 and wasn’t particularly well-received. Some of the material about the queer community is genuinely objectionable and her bit on Bill Cosby is easy to misinterpret as her defending the man. When you start watching Mom Genes, it feels like you’re in for more of the same, but after about twenty minutes, Christina switches to talking about personal experiences. Her comedy is still biting and some of it is arguably ableist or unnecessarily harsh towards millennials and Gen-Z. If you enjoy provocative humour that often flirts with the line between bold and problematic, she’s the comedian for you. Especially if you’re Gen X with a grudge. If you’re Gen Z, she still has something to offer – a lens and a worldview with which to approach a World that often feels impossibly harsh to ever exist in peacefully.
I discovered Amy Miller very recently. Her debut solo stand-up special, Ham Mouth, originally on Comedy Central, can be found on YouTube. Her material, like most of the comedians on this list, is also based on storytelling and attacking the patriarchy. But what I find her to be exceptionally good at is crowd work. The smooth flow of the show will make you wonder if there were members planted in the audience. She is quick-witted and has the smartest comments about people’s reactions to her jokes. Some of the material is even scandalous, especially when she’s calling out male comedians on their misogyny. She doesn’t name names but makes sure to confront the sexism in the comedy world with her biting humour. She has funny takes on bathroom doors, turning forty, and used bath water. Half an hour will feel like a few minutes because of the non-stop laughter. She has a few short clips from other performances on YouTube as well. If you haven’t heard of her yet or seen her work, let’s change that today!
The best comedy is just storytelling. Ms. Pat has the craziest stories to tell. She became a mother at the age of fourteen and had a second child at the age of fifteen. She took to selling cocaine to support herself and her two children. She eventually took to comedy after her caseworker encouraged her to try it out and two decades after her first attempt at stand-up comedy in Atlanta, she’s on Netflix with material about her dark past. Be it the multiple instances of sexual assault she has survived or the deplorable condition in which her uncle had to live because of his injuries, she has a tragedy to tell, but she refuses to be broken by her history or to put a light-hearted spin on it. This is by far the hardest-hitting special on this list and if harsh realities make you uncomfortable, Ms. Pat will probably have you drenched in sweat by the end of the special. She makes her audience sit with the discomfort to make a statement but eventually has the sweetest, most empowering message to give her audience. There’s a reason she writes jokes instead of tragedies and that’s because in her own words, “when you can laugh at it, that means you got control of it.” Life has been a series of curveballs for her, but she keeps on fighting and taking control, by turning poisonous people into punchlines.
Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on the conditions of women all over the world, and in keeping with that theme, I’d like to point out that eleven of the eighteen comedians on the lists are white. And if you make a list of all comedians from 2022 who got specials released on OTTs, you’d find around 20 women in a sea of about 100 stand-up specials. Sure that’s a step up from when that number was 2. But we can do better and we need to be urging Hollywood to do better. Fortune Feimster is the only queer comedian on this list and the lack of representation for all factions of women should be analyzed in great detail. Accountability starts with acknowledgment and I look forward to that taking a more militant shape, leading to a rise in female stand-up comics in this upcoming year and the ones to follow.
That being said, this list was made with the intention of celebrating the craft and I love seeing more women of colour on this list than before and more newcomers on the scene as well! For ages, men have been dismissing female comics by claiming they aren’t funny but each and every one of these women, alongside their compatriots who are also working on specials or already have ones streaming online, are proving that the criticism couldn’t be further from the truth. They come with unique lenses, each presenting a new perspective on the same patriarchal society we live in, each using a different style to deliver their material, and each rallying for more space for others to make the World more inclusive.
Related lists created by the same author
Mirrorball is full of passion and love for the medium of cinema and is indeed a fitting love letter to La La Land.
Related diversity category
If you haven’t watched Good Trouble yet, you need to. This Foster’s spinoff, aptly named for civil rights champion and Congressman, John Lewis, follows Mariana and Callie Adams Foster as they begin a new chapter of young adulthood and navigate life, careers, social justice, and love.
Want a list to watch the best animated Disney Movies With Diversity? This list of disney films details the best of the animated classics featuring cultural and racial diversity. Favorite movie quotes, songs and main voice actors!