Stream It or Skip It?

Britain’s biggest-selling stand-up comedian of the past decade finally brings his first comedy special to Netflix, filmed just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live comedy. Proving once more the secret to comedy is…TIMING! It also helps to be a Showman, which just so happens to be the title of McIntyre’s first special for the streaming giant.

MICHAEL McINTYRE: SHOWMAN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: It’s frankly surprising McIntyre waited so long to join Netflix considering how many other British comedians already had leapt onto the platform before him. McIntyre holds The O2 arena’s record for ticket sales, besting boy band Take That by selling more than 400,000 tickets for 28 shows in 2018. Take that, indeed.

But then again, the 44-year-old is a BBC chap through and through, having hosted a stand-up showcase for BBC One (Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow) a decade ago, followed by five seasons of a Saturday night variety program, Michael McIntyre’s Big Show. The fifth season of that BAFTA-TV nominated series filmed at The London Palladium, where he also recorded this hour of stand-up in the first week of March. This is his fifth stand-up special, but first for Netflix.

What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: The title, Showman, should put you in an appropriate frame of mind. America already has imported James Corden, but Corden’s not a stand-up, so combine Corden’s showmanship with the sincerity and physicality of a Kevin James, and then you’ll come closer to an approximation of McIntyre’s persona. Especially since McIntyre’s material in this hour may remind you of a typical American sitcom. Chubby hubby. Hot wife. Disrespecting kids who show him up. The formula proves wildly popular on either side of the pond.

Memorable Jokes: So yes, McIntyre has plenty of premises ready-made for sitcom plots, from his attempts to take a pee break in the middle of the night without awakening his wife (because women be shoppin’!), to his misguided attempt to check the water temperature in his bath, to later stories about how his tween son has one-upped him and how his wife’s sexual preferences have stumped him.

These jokes and many more McIntyre demonstrates and emphasizes via act-outs to sear the images of him into our memory. He’s quite accomplished at this, succeeding from the very start with a bit about how he had not only grown out of his suit, but out of his face, according to his iPhone’s “Face ID.”

Performing at home at the end of a lengthy world tour, McIntyre also has fun at the expense of accents from New Zealand and Australia, to Italy and France, but reserving his sharpest barbs for UK’s own Northern Irish tongue. A bit about Asians could easily have gone wrong, but McIntyre mostly makes himself the butt of these jokes, suggesting he himself mistook a tabloid photo of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for himself, for example.

Our Take: When describing his tailored suit, McIntyre admits that as he gained weight, the suit, “it’s got a little clingy, a bit tuggy.” Could the same be said for his stand-up?

To be sure, a chunk in the second half of the hour does lean hard into nostalgia, from the evolution of Internet passwords to how we handled our cars before automation. Nostalgic humor is an easy mark for audiences, hitting that button in our brains of oh, how silly or simple or hard things used to be, but it’s also a cheap way to circle back and reuse old premises that may have been previously driven into the ground back in the day. Not that most comedy fans tend to notice or care about such things quite as much as critics do. Ahem.

All that said, McIntyre demonstrates a skilled sense of showmanship, thereby earning the label he applied to his Netflix debut.

He even employs a very old-school, professional tactic near the end of the hour, amid an elaborate act-out about different dog breeds, in which he has his own dog love all the things about Michael that he previously made fun of himself about in the hour. Five-star love.

Our Call: STREAM IT. McIntyre claimed that American audiences for his live tour (he performed in New York City in both 2018 and 2020, at the Beacon Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, respectively) went absolutely wild for him. Your results may vary, although you’ll more than likely at least agree with the more staid British responses he jokes about getting: “He didn’t disappoint” or “surprisingly good.”

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

Watch Michael McIntyre: Showman on Netflix

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