We’re all familiar with the move where comedians take a sentimental turn at the end of their specials, hoping that by tying the past hour of jokes to a larger message they’ll make their stand-up more memorable. Oftentimes, this doesn’t work; the moment isn’t earned and feels like a cheap grab for our attention. Comedian Kurt Braunohler, however, sticks the emotional landing of his latest special, Perfectly Stupid, thanks to his thoughtful storytelling, silly bits, and impeccable delivery.
You may think you’re unfamiliar with Braunohler, until you recognize his voice (which he uses to its fullest capacity in the special) from his appearances on Bob’s Burgers as various characters (including Louise’s nemesis Logan), or his visage from his parts in Barbarian, The Big Sick, and many a TV show.
Most of Perfectly Stupid involves Braunohler doing what he does best: making us laugh. This time, the subject of his jokes is his family, both the one he was born into and the one he and his wife started together. Braunohler’s late mother was a loving single parent, while his father hasn’t even necessarily memorized his son’s features. He spends much of the hour poking fun at himself and his own dad, though their shortcomings as parents are on completely different scales. Braunohler delves into his childhood, from his time embodying a divorced dad at the Dayton airport to his stint delivering hot bags of blood in a hospital.
The rest of the special is strung together with Braunohler’s signature absurdity. He paints a picture of embarrassment that’ll stick with you far beyond the show, makes the best of HarperCollins’ copyright constraints, and conjures up a hilarious description of Shel Silverstein’s overly aggressive The Giving Tree author photo. All of these bits are told in such a funny, immersive way, that you hardly notice he’s building to a larger point.
I’m not going to spoil how Perfectly Stupid ends, other than saying it’s perfectly wonderful, with a tension-cutting callback that keeps things from getting too saccharine. Braunohler is clearly a master of his craft, effortlessly drawing conclusions about both life and the role of comedy while still staying funny.
P.S. If you stick around after the credits, you can enjoy the Easter egg that is Joke-a-Tron, the first AI comedian. Personally, I am dubious about such technical innovations, because I believe robot sex could eventually destroy humanity (an essay for another day). And if those robots could disarm us with quippy one-liners, we’re even more doomed than I think. Luckily, Joke-a-Tron’s musings are more like Mad Lib gibberish than anything else—but Braunohler’s riffs make it worth sticking around for.
You can find Perfectly Stupid at PerfectlyStupid.com.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.