Review: Gary Gulman, “It’s About Time” (Netflix)
Perhaps nobody wears righteous incredulity as well or as humorously as Gary Gulman.
Not indignation, mind you. Although as he says during a 24-minute story that forms the climax of his new hour on Netflix, It's About Time, he can do righteous indignation like nobody's business.
The way Gulman stakes out a position, like a great painter or a virtuoso, coloring the scenes behind the scenes of the essence of his jokes, really makes him stand above most stand-ups.
That story Gulman tells about a trip to Trader Joe's could be told in a five-minute TV set, but starts with a solid seven minutes just explaining his love for the grocery chain, then follows tangents wherever he may find them, from predicting the woman he's about to have his meltdown with, to taking one phrase she said out into a discourse on mottoes that shouldn't be but are, to imagining how his supermarket showdown could have been avoided, mining everything for comedy gold.
At the same time, he opens his new hour by acknowledging he's lazy enough in real life to buy a movie on iTunes even though he already owned it on DVD.
Chastised by his older brother in his thick Boston accent, Gulman manages a witty retort. “It only adds up, if you add it up.”
Whereas Gulman jokes that “to me, the phone is a seldom-used app on my phone,” his mother, by contrast, seems content with "Telephone 1.0." No texting. No emailing. Could you imagine still using a landline phone even? Gulman always finds a clever way at getting at how things have changed over the years and generations, not nostalgia for its own sake, but doing much more than merely reminding us that the Scholastic Book Club was a thing with many members at one point. Or that 411 still rings. "They're not expecting your call," Gulman jokes. Why would they? Why would you call 411 when Google tells you anything, and you're expecting everything.
Gulman contrasts his parents -- in their 80s now, so they survived polio! (callback for longtime fans of Gulman) -- and their generation with ours, noting that perhaps the real difference is in the amount of complaining, and how spoiled we are in comparison.
We want all the music on our phone. "All the music." For free. Now. We've demanded "three levels of pulp in our juice."
And we somehow have made bizarrely niche documentaries, which Gulman has found and loves sharing the "fantasies in his head" that are the backstories he has created for them. Who are the people who came up with two-letter abbreviations for all of the United States for postal efficiency? I'm sure it's a delightful enough documentary, but nowhere nearly as enjoyable as listening to Gulman's fantastical re-enactment of it.
Gulman loves to break down language, too, whether it’s how the South might perceive quinoa, or how he examines the concept of ne’er-do-wells.
Or how his friend flails at finding the appropriate word for a documentary about Hitler.
Gary Gulman is a fun time at the office, no matter if you even have an office, or wherever you can choose to devote an hour of your life to fun times. So do it. You'll be happier for it. Just saying.