This Is Happening
Comedy Central series showcasing storytelling aspects of stand-up gets it right
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
Comedy Central’s latest stand-up comedy showcase, “This Is Not Happening,” with host Ari Shaffir, which debuted February 13 and will run on the following Friday nights, focuses on storytelling aspects of stand-up, with both better and lesser known comedians telling extended stories.
Each episode features three performers, with their stories all loosely sharing a certain theme. The debut, on “Romance,” linked Big Jay Oakerson’s raunchy story with Iliza Shlesinger’s tale of a weird short-term boyfriend, closed out with Barry Rothbart’s icky coming-of-age tale. The comedians perform on a stage in the center of a crowd in a bar, with gold poles prominent around it, making you think it might be a converted strip club – not a theater or standard comedy club stage, contributing a different vibe to the performances.
Along with that creative bit of presentation, “This Is Not Happening” uses some hyper-surreal surrounding slow motion segments featuring Shaffir. For “Romance,” his face appears to have been digitally added to a male stripper’s body in a debauched Vegas hotel room scene, and in the second episode, “Emergencies,” Shaffir is the patient on an operating room table undergoing a gruesome disaster – with a gunfight going on around him. These segments add to the transgressive, seedy, late-night vibe of the show.
The aforementioned second episode, coming February 20, features Steve Rannazzisi of “The League,” Marc Maron and Ms. Pat, the least known of those three, but definitely on the same level or greater with her storytelling material. Rannazzisi shows his personality is not that far off from his character on “The League,” but his tale of an emergency definitely fits the theme. Maron tells one of his cancer scare tales (because I’m very familiar with his material, it was the only piece in these episodes I had already heard, but that shouldn’t dissuade you). Ms. Pat’s story, which shouldn’t be spoiled, is compelling and funny enough that it deserves to close the episode.
Storytelling comedy shows like this have proliferated on stages but haven’t made it to TV as often. “This Is Not Happening” does a very good job retaining longer-form storytelling style comedy within the constraints of a half-hour format.
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© 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua