Comedians of the World episode 1 recap: USA Neal Brennan


Netflix already has a strong catalog of noteworthy stand-up specials. They’re upping the ante by releasing Comedians of the World. It’s a collection of 47 half-hour comedy specials from comedians from around the world.

Comedians of the World is a sampler and reference guide for stand-up comedy as we know it in 2019. And it’s on a global level. If you’re tired of hearing an American point of view, you can choose from eight different regions around the world. If you’re tired of hearing the white male perspective on everything, at least one of the four comedians from each region identifies as female. And, if you wanted to check out what stand-up is like in another language, there are a number of different choices including Spanish, Portuguese, and German.

Is this PC culture run amok? Nope. Is this the most inclusive group of comedians? Nope. Netflix does want people to watch this, so many of the comedians are established in the comedy world in some way. It should be a fun endeavor recapping these half hours. At some point, I’ll be able to compare and contrast comedy on a large scale all from one collection.

Neal Brennan

With all that said, the very first episode presented to us features the good old United States of America and Neal Brennan. Best known for co-writing Half Baked and co-creating Chapelle’s Show with Dave Chapelle, Brennan also used to co-host a podcast called The Champs. He would co-host along with Moshe Kasher and, for the show’s early run, DJ Douggpound. The guest was a person of color and the conversations were always funny and insightful. You can still check it out on Libsyn.

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Brennan’s last special, 3 Mics, was compared to a one-man show by the New York Times when it came out in 2017. There were three microphones on stage. One for open-mic one-liners, one for straight stand-up, and one in the middle of the stage that functioned as more of a confessional. It’s one of the best Netflix stand-up specials to date.

Around the World in 30 Minutes

Brennan’s Comedians of the World half hour is a more traditional stand-up comedy set. He doesn’t get meta as much as he’s just self-aware of what he’s about to cover. Brennan walks out to the beautiful blue aura of the stage and tells the crowd he’s going to do some Trump material just so everyone knows they’re on the same page.

There’s a pretty thorough takedown of politics and how the American people are ultimately responsible for all election results. But that’s only the opening material. It smoothly moves on to a comparison of culture overseas. The concept of political correctness is never mentioned by name. But the fact that people on the left, right, and center of the political spectrum are prone to being politically correct is explored. The best parts of this compare statues of Confederate Generals in the American South to statues of Hitler in Germany. That’s tricky, but Brennan makes it work.

The second half of the set deals with relationships and the differences between men and women. Brennan doesn’t take sides for very long. He easily destroys both sides of the equation. Sure, the material about men is a little more detailed and features a quick transition that mentions Louis CK, but Neal Brennan is a dude. He’ll naturally know that stuff better.

Overall, there’s a real ease about Brennan. When he asks for audience responses by applause, he knows what to expect. He’s worked the material and is a pro. The stage set-up isn’t in-the-round, but the fans are stacked seemingly straight up and high up on either side of him. That’s not something he would have an issue with, but I kept noticing it. Also, for any fans of The Champs, Neal Brennan’s stool game is strong.

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This was a solid first episode. If the audience was actually watching this live and in-person, Brennan likely would have gone closer to the end of the night. That’s why it’s a good decision to start the series off with him. Neal Brennan’s Comedians of the World is topical, nuanced, and funny.

Are you interested in the concept of Comedians of the World? Have you watched Neal Brennan’s half hour? Let’s discuss in the comments!