As we settle into this new normal, one with a never-ending pandemic and the possibility of World War III ever on the horizon, it’s important to embrace comforts that let you escape the seemingly endless bad news that comes with every new day. It’s becoming more challenging to find the funny in our everyday lives, but it’s good to know that some things never change. The sky is still blue, the grass is still green, and, yes, comedians that spend most of their act telling dick jokes are still funny.
On his new special, Doug, comedian Matt Braunger dusts off some pre-pandemic material and adds fatherhood to his repertoire of goofs. The comedian is known for being part of the cast on the last season of MADtv and having a recurring role on Marvel’s Agent Carter (Oh shit, that’s right! Is that show still canon?) Before 2020, Braunger had a new hour ready to test out on the road, but the pandemic put the kibosh on it. Instead, he played stay-at-home dad for a year, building up new experiences and a new perspective as a father, without losing any of the stupid and absurd humor he’s known for. Positioning himself between two neon palm trees as if the new dad is trying to set a party atmosphere, Braunger is as energetic, animated, and wily as ever on Doug. Matt Braunger is a Looney Tune come to life.
After reassuring the audience that yes, he is the guy from the 2007 Halloween episode of iCarly, Braunger spends the first sixteen minutes of Doug talking about hot dudes. Yes, hot dudes like Patrick Swayze in Road House and the stars of the overtly horny action movies of the 1980s like Jean-Claude Van Damme. His take on making straight dudes uncomfortable by objectifying them doesn’t feel like a new concept, but it’s Braunger’s delivery that will make the insecure men in your life squirm.
Like so many Gen X comedians, Braunger has become a dad, though, as he points out, a bit later in the game than most. His pivot from jokes about flipping sexism on its head to fatherhood is a bit jarring, mostly because he’d just spent a decent amount of time talking about balls before bringing up having to change the loaded diaper of his daughter, who came from said balls, in a family restaurant/biker bar. It’s clear, however, that Braunger’s material touches on some things more personal to him. He has always been a delightfully silly stand-up, but Doug has moments that share a softer side of Braunger: being happily married, traveling with a newborn, those moments of pandemic togetherness that happened in that strange time when the world was first turned upside down. Braunger’s love of the absurd still triumphs over everything, but these brief moments of sincerity strengthen his comedic storytelling.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on comedians, both in the sense that it made live comedy shows become Zoom calls for a period and low-hanging fruit is now much harder to grab. People seem to get stupider every day, and those comedians who rely solely on pointing out that stupidity struggle to find something that won’t just make us roll our eyes. When you’ve been living the joke, it’s harder to find it funny anymore. Braunger does it right by acknowledging the pandemic in the room but still breaking down the humor in everyday interactions and personal stories of weirdness as he always has. Not every joke hits as it should, but the fact that he doesn’t have to rely heavily on tired concepts and political humor makes the hour easier to enjoy.
Braunger recites his comedic thesis early in his set, which amounts to essentially that there are dumb jokes that every comic likes to do because it’s fun for them. Braunger is the sort of comedian who isn’t going to let a stupid joke go if he thinks it’s funny. If it makes him laugh, it may make an audience laugh—and if it doesn’t, he still had a good time doing it. If you try to make a career out of something you love, why wouldn’t you make it entertaining for yourself?
Doug can be watched on Moment here.
Jack Probst is a writer and record collector from St. Louis. He appreciates the works of James Murphy, Wes Anderson, and Super Mario. Send any and all complaints to @jackdprobst on Twitter. He enjoys writing paragraphs about himself in his spare time.