Comedy, Randoms

Itty Bitty Review: Neal Brennan’s Blocks

Blocks follows Neal Brennan as he talks about the emotional and cultural issues
that make him feel like something’s wrong with him in a humorous way,

from drugs and alcohol, liberalism, to his small chances of finding real love.

Neal Brennan is one of my favorite comics. Even though he’s the co-creator of Chapelle’s Show and the movie Half Baked, he’s remained quietly famous until recently. By that, I mean if you’re a hardcore stand-up comedy nerd, you’d likely know his name but that was about it. Nobody thinks of a nerdy white guy when they bask in Chapelle’s Show memories. They hear I’M RICK JAMES, BITCH!

Although he arguably played a part in creating the Dave Chapelle we know today, their comedy is very different. Lately it seems like Chapelle has made pissing people off the primary objective of his career. Brennan’s first special Women and Black Dudes was performed in the traditional observational humor format (like most comics). With his second special 3 Mics, he took a more artistic turn with the format. The stage had (you guess it) three microphones. On the first mic, he told one-liner jokes. On the second mic, he performed in the observational humor format. And on the third mic, he spoke openly about his lifelong struggle with depression. Not exactly a hilarious topic on the surface but the show is a genuine work of art. He will have you rolling laughing right after telling you about some of the extreme measures he gone to in an effort to “fix” his brain. The special shines a light on a personally familiar part of the spectrum of mental health struggles we all experience.

I’ve also struggled with depression my entire life. Mine, however, has never gone to the point of needing a daily medication or anything like that. My depression monster wakes up every once in a while but never turns feral. It makes me cranky and tired and pulverizes my patience with other humans.

Blocks keeps the mental health and relationship topics rolling, plus it touches on some of the some of the turns our society has taken in recent years. Just one mic this time but there is still an artwork element pertaining to the blocks on the wall behind him. Each of the blocks in the background represents a topic he talks about, and he bounces seamlessly from one topic to the next in a very conversational way even though the blocks serve as a checklist of sorts. As he speaks, he shifts and rearranges the blocks. I’m not going to blow it but I will say pay attention to the blocks all the way to the end. It’s worth it. It’s also worth the headache you will get trying to figure out how he did it.

This was another great stand-up special from Brennan. He’s always good for a solid performance but I think he set a new bar for this one. If you haven’t seen the prior specials I mentioned, you should check those out as well.

Do you watch stand-up comedy? Who is your favorite comic?

Have you watched Blocks yet? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments.

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