“My only intent is to delight. I’m a nightclub act.”
So says the stand-up comedian Jacqueline Novak, nearing the climax of her first off-Broadway show. But Get On Your Knees is so much more than a comedy performance, more even than a one-person theatrical production. Of which the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City’s West Village has incubated several greats in recent memory (see the eventual Netflix specials and/or Broadway runs for Colin Quinn, Hasan Minhaj, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll, and Mike Birbligia, among them).
Birbiglia executive produces Novak’s run at Cherry Lane, and Mike Lavoie produces with Carlee Briglia. Lavoie has worked not only with Birbiglia, but also with the other Cherry Lane acts mentioned above. What’s more: Lavoie and Novak go back to the same college improv troupe at Georgetown University that included Kroll and Mulaney in the early 2000s.
But enough about all of them. This is Novak’s show. This is her time to shine.
And shine she does. An absurd intellectual, Novak, proves in these 90 minutes that everything women learned about sex from magazines, from school, or from their friends’ older sisters was wrong. Certainly, a show devoted to deconstructing the existence, nature and role of blow jobs in our society will find itself full of dick jokes. But Novak has such a playful way with words and stage presence, as directed by John Early, that allows her to lean into her act-outs, whether she’s demonstrating her initial sexual misadventures as a high-schooler, or by impersonating the male phallus itself. Or as she would have us call it, the nis!
The grayness of her wardrobe affords us the opportunity not to focus on her physical “sack of sex potatoes” but on the content of her caricatures and characterizations.
Novak redefines sexual politics and turns it on its ultra sensitive head.
Her show is a hit with her audiences at the Cherry Lane. But I can’t help thinking that Novak’s performance should be seen by an even wider, and younger audience. If we’re laughing in knowing recognition in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, just imagine the impact Get On Your Knees could have on boys and girls who still need to learn a thing or two or everything about sex education.
I want to see Novak performing Get On Your Knees to middle schoolers across America. If any school administrators dared to book her. If not, there’s always Netflix, HBO or any number of new streaming platforms to come in 2020, right?
(for a sense of what she had to say five years earlier about the subject, you can go back in time to this track from Novak’s 2014, album, “Quality Notions”)