Not many comedians on the rise can say they’ve been in an Oscar-winning film, but Sam Morril is one of the lucky few. The New York comic appears in Joker, comparing men and women’s attitudes towards sex at an open mic where Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) bombs. The bit is simple but effective, and timeless enough that it works in the film’s ‘70s setting while still eliciting a smile in 2020.
Timeliness is a quality that Morril has struggled with in the past. On his 2018 special Positive Influence, the comedian included a retooled version of a Caitlin Jenner joke that he had previously employed on Comedy Central’s The Half Hour and his appearance on The Colbert Show. It felt old and hacky then, as it does now watching it back. However, on I Got This, Morril has clearly improved in gauging what subjects are ripe for the picking. He brings up #MeToo, specifically society’s incredibly low bar for men, in a set released mere weeks before Harvey Weinstein’s historic conviction, as well as the (unfortunately) topical issues of abortion and school shootings. His self-deprecation at being an “accidental hero” for drinking a girl’s roofied beverage at a party is certainly an improvement over previous bits that hinged on rape as the punchline. Morril proves that he is learning, one viral news story at a time.
Needless to say, Morril explores touchy topics, but tension is a vital cornerstone for his style. His delivery is so effortless and casual that his performances would suffer without it, and he is clearly aware of this fact. One of Morril’s mantras is that while we may not like the content, the audience sure as hell has to admire the structure.
Boundary pushing aside, Morril’s craftsmanship particularly shines during his long stories. His final bit, about a Cleveland vigilante who christened himself “The White Knight,” showcases his talents as a storyteller. While he finishes with a weak callback, the bit as a whole is rewarding enough that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t stick the landing.
Possibly the most surprising aspect of the special is that Morril paid for it to be shot himself. As a result, the production is spare, but his talent and spectacular eyebrows need no bells or whistles. Morril is pleasantly cynical on I Got This, the jaded barfly regaling you with jokes that make you laugh in spite of yourself.
Sam Morril’s I Got This is currently available for free on YouTube.
Clare Martin writes about comedy, music and more for Paste.