Comedian Danny Jolles is no stranger to an unusual special format; his first hour of stand-up, Six Parts, took place across a half a dozen different locations, from a gym to a barbershop. His new special, You Choose: The Full Interactive Comedy Special, goes beyond Six Parts, though, in both ambition and meaning.
Like the name suggests, You Choose allows the viewer to determine how Jolles’ set plays out. Do you care about the fact that he recently got engaged? Do you love or hate David Blaine (personally, the latter since he was accused of sexual assault)? These options change the trajectory of the special and which of Jolles’ jokes you get to enjoy.
Let’s be clear: this is no Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Paste’s Jacob Oller rightfully criticized the Netflix offering as having “no point beyond itself; it’s merely an exercise in ‘can I do this?’” Jolles, on the other hand, has an aim beyond using the unconventional structure to stand out from the rest of the stand-ups. He ends the special by explaining to the live audience that he’s done two versions of each joke—he either loves veterinarians or hates veterinarians, high school was terrible or not-so-bad, etc.—as a demonstration of how we shouldn’t simply trust what people say, but rather their actions. The dual approach shows the manipulation at play when you just listen to someone’s words. His delivery is so full-throated that he seems to really believe what he’s saying… until you watch the alternate version, which is just as convincing. Jolles’ emphasis on learning and “showing your work” rounds out the choose-your-own-adventure construction into something more than a mere gimmick.
But let’s get back to the jokes. The format showcases Jolles’ command of the audience and his sharp writing skills. He’s so affable that it’s easy to be on his side, and even if you don’t completely agree with him, he’s so funny that you want to stick around for the punchline. He comes across as being slightly exasperated with the world, but also in awe of it—depending on which set of jokes you’re watching. Jolles’ storytelling is effortless, accentuated by his goofy physical humor; well-timed changes in his voice and hand movements can be just enough to bring a bit home. Beyond being hilarious, Jolles is simply a natural onstage.
Whether or not you’re sold on the choose-your-own-adventure style for a comedy special, Jolles’ method means we get essentially double the stand-up—and for free, since it’s available on YouTube. The different segments work together as a whole, but are also handy for those days when you don’t want to watch a full special. Just be sure to watch until the end, where Jolles sticks the landing.
is streaming for free on YouTube.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.