review   |   weekend

The comedy club atmosphere is brought to TV



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Grade: A-

The comedy club atmosphere is hard to replicate.

The tightly packed audience, the explosion in the room when a joke truly lands and the one viewer who laughs just a little too loud. It is part of what makes me love stand-up comedy, and anything on TV is just a bonus.

But comedy specials and stand-up TV shows don’t possess the same emotion or energy. I enjoyed the material, but the club atmosphere was never truly present.

That is, until Comedy Central needed a replacement for “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show” after the comedian took a bigger gig at HBO. Comedy Central went in a slightly different direction, reaching out to cult-favorite comedians Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani.

The two had been hosting a show in the back of Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles since 2010 which brought in plenty of large name comedians. So when Comedy Central decided to tap them as the new summer stand-up program, they decided to maintain the club feel of the show.

There would be no expensive theater. The goal of this program was to include TV viewers in the excitement of a comedy show — and it’s worked.

“The Meltdown” feels less like a half-hour in which comedians are launching their prepared material and more like a group of buddies trying out weird stuff and messing with each other on stage and allowing the crowd to be involved.

Season two premiered Tuesday night, and that energy has not faded.

We saw new Comedy Central stars Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer go up in Ray and Nanjiani’s clothes and pretend to be the two male hosts for about five minutes. We saw Andy Daly write a bit in the green room about a cowboy poet and execute it on stage moments later.

This type of spontaneity is not replicated elsewhere. And this is why I watch. There are times when the bits fail and comedians struggle, but that is part of the fun. The show is a place where comedians can have fun with their less-polished material instead of always doing a choreographed special.

That is what a club show feels like, and it is a true accomplishment to bring it to television.

In Tuesday’s premiere, Cameron Esposito performed a bit detailing the repulsive intricacies of a woman’s period while the whole crowd ate jelly donuts she had purchased for them. That is bizarre and inventive and something I want more of.

In a season one episode, Rory Scovel headlined the show with one long joke in which he kept telling the crowd to keep a standing ovation going for five minutes, told one bad joke and left. Who does that? Not many people, but I am glad we have a place to watch it.

I hope Comedy Central keeps “The Meltdown” around, because they have achieved something.

Brody Miller

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