Your dad’s HBO stand-up comedy special begins with B-roll of him reading a John Grisham novel in his La-Z-Boy; picking up a pair of jeans in Kohl’s, looking at the price tag, raising his eyebrows and putting them back crookedly; avoiding eye contact with a street canvasser carrying a clipboard; eating a cheeseburger at Red Robin; dozing off to Ray Donovan.
His show is the culmination of 26 tireless years of workshopping material before a live audience of his wife and three daughters. Your dad also acknowledges the thousands of waiters, grocery baggers, and bank tellers in the greater Topeka area who provided invaluable feedback during his impromptu performances.
The Topeka Courier called your dad’s HBO standup special, “A rallying cry for dads who don’t include Lay’s in their low-carb diets, who think more people need to see Wind River, and who never buy insurance on a rental car because, in their words, it’s ‘all a racket.’”
Your dad’s special begins with him gaining the audience’s trust by rattling off characteristic one-liners. “You know what invention really tore the roof off of things? The Jaws of Life!” your father says, immediately one-upping himself by confessing that he’s yet to try his neighborhood sushi restaurant because “it seems a little fishy.” In what could be a criticism of the increasingly long lines at the pump, your dad opines that “if turtles drove cars, they’d probably get gas at Shell,” to massive applause from the audience, most of whom were wearing Dr. Scholls inserts.
(At the taping of your dad’s HBO standup special, a record-high volume of Nature Valley bars, baby aspirin and Kohl’s Cash were confiscated by security, as no food, drugs or foreign currency were allowed at the taping.)
Your dad’s HBO stand-up comedy special isn’t without some hiccups, though. In what can only be called a lecture, your dad bemoans the realities of homeownership in a segment completely disconnected from the rest of his set. “If the pipes break, I’ve gotta fix ‘em. If the dishwasher breaks, I’ve gotta fix it,” your dad says, staring unblinkingly at an audience member in the front row. “When you own a home, you’re the management office!”
After a glass of water and a fistful of Lay’s, your dad chilled out a bit.
Predictably, your dad took plenty of swings at his favorite group of avocado-loving gig economy workers: millennials. Things begin tamely enough; your dad wonders aloud whether Medicare will eventually cover the cost of Juul pods, avocado toast will eventually occupy the base of the food pyramid, and whether little Xan goes home for Easter Sunday. A steady stream of laughter rises from the audience. They can sense he’s working toward the big finish.
“Millennials talk about things being ‘lit,’” your dad says. “They call things ‘fire.’ They talk about things being ‘chill.’”
The tension builds.
“I guess I have one question for teens: are we talking Fahrenheit or Celsius?”
The audience roars.
There’s no shortage of observational humor in this special. In one moment, your dad describes walking down the street with your mom, noticing several restaurants’ chalk signs that read GLUTEN-FREE in big, bold letters. “Sweetheart, look,” your dad recalls saying to your mom. “All these restaurants are giving away gluten for free!” In your dad’s HBO standup special, the audience just can’t get enough of your dad’s observational humor.
As for the quiet critical response to your dad’s HBO stand-up comedy special? Well, your dad is taking it in stride. “Critics take themselves too seriously,” your dad says, elbow-deep in a bag of Lay’s, even though he supposedly went low-carb last week. “They just need to go relax over a cold beer and some chili.”
“But,” he added with a wry smile, “they shouldn’t go to Chili’s looking for it.”