Day 31: Gary Gulman

Day 31. Each day in May, I’m sharing one stand up set and talking about why I like it. Today’s set is 2014 performance by Gary Gulman. This one contains less flight of fancy than some of his other Conan appearances, and I’m still really into it. Here’s just a few reasons why:

• ORIGINS. Gary keenly notices that there’s varying pulp quantities in orange juice. The reason I’m laughing isn’t because of just the observation, though, but because Gary takes it one step further and builds an origin story around it. He does the same for his observation that we have so much music for free in our phones. By theorizing how we ended up here, Gary hilariously reveals the ridiculousness of the current state. (See also: Theoretical Act Outs - Joe List, Day 9)

• REDEFINING. In some of my favorite jokes of this set, Gary takes a word or phrase and redefines it. “The phone is this seldom used app on my phone.” “It only adds up, if you add it up.” (Even to some extent, “There’s orange in my orange juice.”) The definition repeats the original term at the end and is very succinct, so that the joke isn’t lost in the interim. Instead, my brain can quickly go back and, almost like a garden path sentence, rerun what I just heard with the new meaning. When I do solve the equation with this new value, I gleefully laugh at Gary’s clever take. (See also: Antanaclasis - Maggie Maye, Day 20)

• MAGNIFICATION. In multiple bits, Gary’s able to show me the funny by revealing an extreme. He was so lazy he bought a movie he owned on DVD. We’re so entitled we want all the music on our phone and, alluding to The Godfather, to pay nothing for it. And the Scholastic Book Club was so slow it would deliver the book at high school graduation. These are outsized examples, and be they hyperbole or true, they’re so absurd that they get me laughing, all while establishing Gary’s sharp points. (See also: Extremes - Greg Giraldo, Day 8)

Hope you enjoyed it. For more Gary Gulman, check out his numerous specials, other popular TV spots, and social media: @garygulman

Day 30: Dov Davidoff

Day 30. I’m sharing one stand up set each day in May and discussing why I like it. Today’s is a 2018 performance on The Tonight Show by Dov Davidoff. Here’s some reasons I’m really into this set:

• PASSION. When Dov’s venting on stage, there’s genuine passion behind it because he picks an incident that provokes the rawest emotions in people: an argument with a loved one. This display wouldn’t work if he was just talking about his favorite color, but because the topic is so charged, the expressiveness feels real to me and my eyes are glued to the stage.

• EMOTIONAL SWINGS. For many of the jokes I’m laughing at in this set, Dov gives me an abrupt emotional swing. He leads me down the direction of calm, but pivots into exasperation. Sometimes he’ll mark this turn with a clearing of the throat and a pained face. (After his friend explains heaven: “I thought, [sound/look] is that what we want?” After his wife tells him he knows everything: “I don’t, I don’t know every- I mean, [sound/look] I know this!” After he says he’s taken breaths and calmed down: “Honey, I mean, [sound/look] I mean it’s got a damn light on it!”) The frustrated outburst is unexpected, and I laugh even more because Dov’s look prior indicates how hard he’s trying for it not to come out.

• SELECTIVE PACING. At first glance, it appears that Dov is pacing back and forth on stage all the time. But like the level of his voice, there’s actually a lot of fluctuation. In reality, he’s stationary for most punchlines. The pacing happens primarily when he’s talking through a premise, building energy and reinforcing his passion, so that when he stops to deliver the punchlines, the contrast is all the more visually arresting. Whereas the emotional swings are mental, the ambulatory swing is physical, but both highlight a change and amplify the comedy. (See also: Loud and Soft - Eddie Murphy, Day 18)

Hope you enjoyed it, and for more Dov Davidoff, follow on IG: @dovdavidoff

Day 29: Mark Normand

Day 29. I’m sharing stand up that I like each day this month, and today’s is a 2014 set from Mark Normand. Here’s some reasons I’m laughing at it:

• SIMILES. Mark peppers his set with similes: being hit on by a hot gay is like finding a million pesos, having a gay son is like finding a french fry in your onion rings, prude girls are like mom and pop shops, promiscuous girls are like Walmart. I like these jokes because there’s tension built into the setup - I at first don’t see how these two disparate ideas link - and then, when he cleverly connects the dots, there’s a release and an accompanying laugh. (See also: The Analogy - Patrice O’Neal, Day 19; Comparison - Aparna Nancherla, Day 7)

• SILENCE. Many of Mark’s sentences have a twist at the end, landing where I don’t expect. It’s a well-constructed punchline, and to further grow the laugh, he’ll place a pause before the reveal. (“I spent the whole day today on [pause] Facebook.” “Spicy Latinas [pause] for a friend.” “Whoa hey, [pause] I’m just trying to sleep with you.”) In the gap time, my brain subconsciously fills in where I expect the sentence to go, thereby heightening the surprise and the laughter when he takes it in a different direction. (See also: Pauses - Stewart Lee, Day 6)

• STANDARDS. There’s a rich potential for funny in double standards since there’s automatically two contrasting pairs. Mark’s got a keen eye for this and, in the last half of the set, turns hypocrisy into comedy: he creates funny theoretical worlds by showing how things would be if I did apply the logic I use in one situation to another. Like the comedy I like the most, he uses his jokes in service of a novel argument. As a result, I’m made to laugh at, but also think on, my inconsistencies.

Hope you enjoyed it, and for more Mark Normand, check out his half hour and hour specials on Comedy Central, Youtube his many great late night spots, or follow on IG: @marknormand

Day 28: Ted Alexandro

Day 28. Each day in the month of May, I’m sending out some stand up I really like and discussing why I enjoy it. Today I’d like to share a 2014 Ted Alexandro set from Conan. Here’s some reasons I’m into it:

• GUMBYING. Ted contorts his body in unexpected ways throughout the set, giving his punchlines a physical dimension that gets me laughing even more. Take his DJ character. He could’ve just stood straight and delivered those lines, and I would have laughed, but by turning his body and then swimming in the air while speaking, he enhances the creepiness of the character and the pop of the joke.

• JOKE PAIRS. Many of Ted’s jokes will reveal a funny observation, and in order to heighten the comedy, he’ll present a normal world before the funnier world: Coffee, then Wine; Not Flirting with Baby, then Flirting with Baby; Straight Voice, then Gay Voice; Flight Layover, then Sexual Layover. With the two side-by-side, I crack up because I can see more clearly the funny of the observation. (For Parallel Players, see also: Sam Morril, Day 16.)

• FUNNY WORD. In Ted’s joke about people telling him that their child’s flirting with him, Ted repeats the word “baby” ten times. Treating babies seriously can be funny (see also: The Serious Silly, Aparna Nancherla, Day 7). But the word “baby” itself is funny. In addition to being evocative, “baby” hits the “buh” sound twice, and “buh” (like “kuh”) is just inherently funny. Ted could have used synonyms, but that would have muddled the joke. Instead, he leans into the word while he speaks, really driving home the image and his point.

Hope you enjoyed it, and for more Ted Alexandro, check out his Instagram: @tedalexandro