Review: Joel McHale, “Live from Pyongyang” on Comedy Dynamics

Joel McHale’s first ever full-length comedy special, Live From Pyongyang, which actually was filmed at the San Jose Improv, is out now on the Comedy Dynamics Network via iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, xBox, and other platforms.

Here’s the thing about McHale, the stand-up comedian.

If all you know about him is what you’ve seen on Community, or The Soup, then you might think it’s a bit of a prick. That’s not an accident.

As he told Conan years ago, “I’m a professional dick,” adding: “I want the audience to hate me.”

The story he tells about hosting a televised gala for Montreal’s Just For Laughs, in that Conan clip, McHale still tells for his comedy special, just in even greater detail.

McHale also, for reasons not known to anyone living in the year 2019, jokes about changing the name of the San Francisco 49ers. “They should change it to the Homosexuals,” McHale jokes. “It’s what San Francisco is known for and what they are proud of — think of how intimidating that would be for the rest of the league!” Yes. Just think of it. Ugh.

That’s not quite as embarrassing for us or him in retrospect as his making jokes about nearby Gilroy, Calif. “Where are you from? Gilroy.” Sighing shrug. “It’s the garlic capital of the world. Garlic festival. I know everyone else makes wine but we make garlic which smells.” I mean, what are the odds you make a joke about a city having a garlic festival and that being the location for a mass shooting right before your special comes out?

That’s probably the only unintentionally dickish thing McHale does with his first solo hour. Because trolling the audience is, in fact, his m.o.

That’s why he jokes about telling fans in New Orleans that they live in “shitty Paris,” or telling fans in Denver they live in the “worst city in America,” even if the only evidence he provides to back that up is the airport being so far way from downtown?!?

Of Montreal, and the JFL gala, he decided to troll them by opening with: “Good evening, Toronto! That’s when shit got real.”

“They were throwing shit at me, but of course, they’re so arrogant, they’re only throwing French products. So it’s like Vuarnet sunglasses, and Renault auto parts. Gerard Depardieu’s body flopped onstage at one point. That’s you!”

“So the weirdest moment of my life happened. We had to do a redo. We started over again. It was bizarre. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. I went backstage. Lights turned off. They calmed the audience down. They had to reintroduce me, lights, cameras, all that crap. I walked back out, and I’m like, ‘Good evening, Montreal.’ And then this was their reaction.” He acts out indifferent audience members, stewing silently at him.

Sometimes, karma ain’t so instant. But someday, you’ll be pitching your comedy special to a giant streaming platform programmed by the guy who booked you to host that JFL gala oh so many years ago.

Sometimes being a professional dick has its drawbacks.

But McHale could’ve just asked Chevy Chase about that.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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