As art forms move forward, innovation and, in many cases, disruption is needed to fuel any sort of true growth. That is especially true of an art form of comedy that is not only subject to frequent change as it’s in comedy nature to question assumptions and expectations.
When it comes to the idea of a stand-up comedy special, especially after decades of just having a mic, mic stand, a bare stage, various sized audiences, and the comedians themselves performing, a desire for something else, something different is there and has been served more and more, even before the pandemic with Maria Bamford’s unconventional specials, Julio Torres’ My Favorite Shapes, and Whitmer Thomas’ The Golden One.
Jessica Watkins also felt that she needed to do something besides just telling jokes on stage in order to stand out with a comedy special, which is why she embarked on an entire walk across America with strategically placed comedy shows in order to make a really special special. What resulted did actually provide something truly special, but it was a far cry from what she had planned.
Through many unforeseen obstacles, circumstances, and a whole bunch of other people just, you know, walking across America, Watkins had to keep reimagining her idea of the special, tour, stand-up, creativity, drive, and purpose while making what would eventually become the beautiful documentary, SPECIALish. It actually ends up being a very self-aware, but enlightening meditation on what it means to be an artist, specifically one that goes for laughs in a dark, crowded room/bar/basement/etc. night after night as well as what it means to express your creative agency as a woman in spite of traumatic past. The several journeys within the main journey of trekking across America go so much deeper in the creative process than so many other comedy documentaries we’ve seen, specifically when it comes to the arduous path that is doing stand-up comedy on the road.
See for yourself in the official trailer for SPECIALish here.
Though it took Jessica several months to do through the journey (long, long before COVID-19), then years to put it into documentary form, it was well worth what resulted in SPECIALish, now streaminig. Please go rent/buy it here and, undoubtedly, soulfully ponder the nature of comedy and art as we did.