By Liel Leibovitz for Tablet Magazine
The comic’s new Netflix special is a masterpiece of emotionally honest, intimate, and hilarious comedy
Contemporary American comedy is, with very few exceptions, a jittery mess. If you want to understand why, pick any five comics who worked between, say, 1930 and 1990, and listen to their acts. Styles, themes, and temperaments will vary, but one thing does not: They are telling you the truth.
The golden age of American comedy was golden because it reflected actual lived experience. The personas of the greatest American comedians, down to their signature tics, were rooted in their own, often gut-wrenching, personal lives. The way Rodney Dangerfield shifts uneasily on Carson’s chair, crossing and uncrossing his legs and fixing his tie twice a minute? It’s not shtick, or, at least, not entirely; it’s the vestigial anxiety of a poor Jewish kid who saw his father twice a year, sold ice cream on the beach to make ends meet, and didn’t find success until he was 46.