Tuesday, April 9

Stream It or Skip It?

Timed for Valentine’s Day, Ali Wong returns to Netflix for her third stand-up comedy special, in which she talks about love, happiness and what it really means to want it all. But is this the kind of special you want to watch if you’re on a first date, if you’re in a long-term relationship or anywhere in between?

The Gists: Ali Wong broke through in a big way thanks to her first Netflix comedy special, baby cobra. She was pregnant for that special as well as her follow-up of her, Hard Knock Wife. Since then, she also wrote and starred in a big Netflix rom-com, Always Be My Maybehelped voice the streaming giant’s animated series, Big Mouthand soon will be seen in the upcoming Netflix series beef.

Nahnatchka Khan, who directed Always Be My Maybe, returns to direct Wong’s third stand-up special, filmed in New Jersey last November. Wong may not be with child onstage for this one, but she still wears those distinctive red eyeglasses, and still has no qualms about revealing her brutally honest opinions about her fellow comedians, her relationship with her husband, and our varied sexual desires and needs.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo: Max S Gerber/Netflix

What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: Among single ladies of Wong’s generation, you could find similar premises and jokes from the likes of Nikki Glaser or Michelle Wolf, but again, those are single ladies. For the honest perspective from a married woman in comedy, the Netflix algorithm itself suggests Christina P.

Memorable jokes: Gender roles. Sex. Sees it. More sex. Through a series of act-outs, Wong forces the audience to imagine, then picture sexual acts and gratification — or lack thereof — and how women have to lie or pretend to even come close to succeeding within these gender power dynamics. “The lies will set you free!”

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For those of you who may be more casual comedy fans, this might be the first time you’ve ever heard the term “chuckle f—rs,” or have been forced to consider what it’s like in the DMs of a female comedian. As she’ll tell you, anyone who finds Wong sexually attractive enough to DM “is a raging psychopath — and has extremely good taste.”

And yet, plenty of time in this hour finds Wong fantasizing about cheating on her husband. Conventional gender dynamics come into play for Wong not only as she describes why she hasn’t and won’t cheat, but also as relates it to the lengths married women will go to follow societal customs, and how much better single people have it by not making lifetime commitments to their husbands and children.

If you’re looking for some behind-the-scenes dish from Always Be My MaybeWong happily supplies some, although her revelations might not unfold the way you think they will.

Our take: Ali Wong cuts right to the chase. She wants the chase. She misses the chase.

Wong demands your attention from her opening line, slowing down to enunciate the activating nouns and adjectives so they hit even harder: Jeal-ous. Bitter. Models. “You know, I’m very jealous and bitter that when a man finds any ounce of mainstream success in comedy, they get to date models, actresses and pop singers.”

That premise might make a certain male comedian pop into your head. As in her previous specials, Wong does not hesitate to call out the double-standards facing stand-up comedians. When she talks about the taboo of women cheating, drawing stark contrasts to how society is so forgiving of the men who cheat, she does n’t name any men in her ella industry. Although if you follow celebrities at all, I didn’t even need to remind you of the recent histories of, say, John Mulaney or Chris Rock, for example.

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For all of her fantasizing of infidelity, though, you know Wong’s special and her life remains destined for a happy ending. Perhaps because the through-line of her comedy de ella continues to blaze a trail for female empowerment. As she declares at one point in this hour, she’s not looking for equal pay, so much as equal pleasure.

Our Call: STREAMIT. I don’t know which wave of feminism Ali Wong is currently surfing, but I am here for it. Whether or not she ever scores that Hello Kitty sponsorship deal.

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for current newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. I have also tweeted @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.


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