In terms of comedy specials, what would be an apt way to close out this year, this awful, insane, seemingly never-ending year? There may not be a consensus answer to that question, but we personally feel that the proper comedy special to end on would be something that’s equal parts absurd, cathartic, experimental, self-reflexive, hilarious, and poignant.
There is a plethora more of adjectives that can be thrown at Natalie Palamides’ solo show comedy special Nate-A One Man Show, but it’s a rare lightning rod of a comedy special that is very much the perfect cap, comedy wise, to put on 2020.
For several years, Palamides has brought some of the most innovative, bonkers, and delightfully disturbing characters to the stage and gaining more acclaim and become a perennial international comedy festival darling (both at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival specifically). That includes this solo show developed with director Phil Burgers, Nate, where Palamides takes on the personage of “Nate”, a man wrestling with his toxic masculinity in a world that’s slowly kicking toxic masculinity to the curb. In this regard, Natalie really revels, in a legitimately edgy way (and not just because of the playful nudity), with presenting such a thing both critically and comedically in a solo show.
Palamides jovially runs towards discomfort and tension that comes from her thorough audience interaction during this “one-man” show, a rarity in any sort of comedy special. In fact, maybe only Todd Barry’s Crowd Work Tour had more play with the audience and even Todd didn’t physically wrestle an audience member or went through the most ridiculous demonstration of consent with the crowd.
Palamides’ dissection of the toxic male ego matched with her mischievousness from her background in clowning for this solo show is more than a just a holding up a mirror to society. Palamides forces the viewer to step into the world of this metaphorical mirror to see how insane it is, which is compounded by the fact that it is pretty much the very world we live in. Nate’s quest to find love and acceptance and lack of acknowledgement to his own pain feels both very starkly real and as ludicrous as Nate’s fake body hair that’s prominently displayed throughout the whole show.
As the audience for the taping is physically part of Nate’s quest to “express” himself as a man, there is a palpable engagement, both at the hysterical moments and the heavy moments (especially in regards to the concept of consent throughout the whole show) that hasn’t been seen in any comedy special that we can think of. Also, Natalie hilariously juxtaposes it with a pretty grand dick joke thanks to a very, very pliable, stretch dildo.
Executive producer Amy Poehler has a talking head clip before Nate starts explaining that some audiences have left confused and even mad, but also remarking, “that’s art, baby.” Though comedy has been a legitimate art form for decades now, the idea of it having art mentioned in the same breath seems to be still foreign. Thanks to specials like Nate and fearless, wild, imaginative performers like Natalie Palamides, such a notion won’t be strange for much longer. If that doesn’t give you a certain hope that we need at the end of this year, we don’t know what else to tell you.
Nate-A One Man Show is now streaming on Netflix.