“Uganda Be Kidding Me” shocks but lacks substance

By Zach Grullon

via EW
via EW

If someone gave you a dime for every time you produced a genuine, heartfelt laugh in Chelsea Handler’s new stand-up comedy special, “Uganda Be Kidding Me,” you would still have a dime. There is indeed just one funny joke through this hour long stand up show, which involves Handler entertainingly demonstrating how your pet cat hides his or her feces in the litter box. But you have to wait through several gross-out and offensive jokes in order to find that one laugh.

Which is not to say that the special is completely without merit. Whenever Handler begins to go on long-winded anecdotes about her annoying best friends (coupled by photos of them in awkward situations) or how she defecated herself on a public beach or her trip through Uganda which inspired her to write a book about her travels, you may find yourself rolling your eyes. Most of this comes from Handler’s delivery of jokes rather than the content in the jokes themselves, although she could have toned down their graphic nature. Do we really need to hear about “dolphin rape?”

While Handler’s frank observational humor has worked to decent results in her past live stand up and television shows, here it feels like she is trying too hard to make the jokes offensive without any real pay off. She randomly shows a pornographic picture behind her of elderly men having a three-way that does absolutely nothing except to be excruciatingly shocking. Even the audience’s laughter was a bit muted at that point. The aforementioned feces joke has a funny opening, but becomes progressively more tired as Handler attempts to up the ante.

Furthermore, Handler fails to use her blunt persona to its best effect. Other comedians use an obnoxious attitude to make jokes at the expense of others, but they also have a healthy amount of self-deprecating humor punctuated throughout the mean-spirited jokes. Handler’s jokes towards her friends feels less like teasing and more like bullying, although there are a couple of her friends that, if you take her word for it, probably deserve to be ridiculed in a public forum for their heinous actions. And even when she goes for self-deprecating humor, they jokes don’t feel well earned or satisfying.

Interestingly, despite Handler’s obnoxious attitude during her stand up, she does reserve the cursing only for certain crucial points. There seems to be a tendency amongst comedians nowadays to throw the f-bomb or any other offensive epithet in every other word for comedic effect. To her credit, Handler understands that we are no longer in the 1970s where constant cursing was something edgy. But that is faint praise to what is otherwise a pass for either a curious Netflix subscriber looking for a solid stand-up hour or fans of Handler’s previous work.

Zach Grullon is a staff writer.  Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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