Brent Morin: I’m Brent Morin Review

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Brent Morin: <i>I&#8217;m Brent Morin</i> Review

As a form, the stand-up comedy special has scarcely moved forward, and perhaps a little backward, since Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion was released in 2006. 2006! A strange hodgepodge of unpolished material and pre-taped documentary segments, Purple Onion is more than vintage Galifianakis: it’s a bold and compelling argument for televised stand-up to do more than simply transmit a live performance.

In 2006 I was an idiot high schooler who only cared about comedy and my dog, and I admired Galifianakis for the care he took in crafting a world for me—not just for his live audience. Today I’m an idiot adult who only cares about comedy and my cat, and I lament that Purple Onion remains an outlier in the pantheon of specials that are little more than taped theatre. We may be in the golden age of television and the second comedy boom, but we are far from Peak Stand-up Special.

All of this to say: it’s a damn shame that Netflix’s I’m Brent Morin has received a tumbleweed’s worth of attention in a ghost town, but them’s the breaks. At 29, Brent Morin is a skilled writer and an agile performer worthy of his starring role on NBC’s Undateable. He has Bill Burr’s rare mix of fury and heart, John Mulaney’s goofy diffidence, and Mike Birbiglia’s facility with narrative. What he doesn’t have is quite such a recognizable name, and this is more or less I’m Brent Morin’s thesis.

The special, shot at the Gramercy Theatre and released last week, opens with a confrontation between Morin and a security guard (comic Leonard Ouzts), who demands to see a backstage pass. Morin insists this is his Netflix taping; the guard says he cancelled his subscription, pushes Morin against the wall, and only relents at the behest of comedian Adam Ray. Meanwhile billboards for I’m Brent Morin are adorned with the subtitle “You may not have heard of me,” and Chris D’Elia joked in a recent live episode of Undateable that nobody would watch the special. Morin’s insecurity is more than a recurring joke—it is the fabric of his performance.

And what a performance that is! Clad in khakis and a black sweater, Morin inhabits both the stage and his wide cast of characters with astonishing ease. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen an episode of Undateable, though what does surprise is the continuity he finds in stories ranging from the ribald to the whimsical. His opening bit deals with a girlfriend who left him for a magician, a failure whose particular absurdity—“Don’t just fucking say ‘magician’ like magic’s real”—he returns to on several occasions. I expect these callbacks will strike some as forced, but I think they provide valuable connective tissue: if I’m Brent Morin has any overarching message, it’s that people let each other down for reasons that often defy understanding; few things defy understanding more than love and magic. Or maybe I’m just partial because I, too, have been left for a magician.

I’m Brent Morin is brimming with memorable bits, from a commentary on the British version of The X Factor to a delightful sequence in which Morin imagines his father leading him to a secret world of minuscule elderly Morins. As stand-up specials go, this is nothing groundbreaking, but then again Undateable is breaking plenty of ground on its own. All told, I’m Brent Morin is a good fun time, and a successful entry from a young talent. Here’s looking forward to more.

Seth Simons is a Brooklyn-based writer, performer, and birdwatcher. Follow him @sasimons.