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Chappelle. Burr. Gervais. Cleese. Rogan. Maniscalco?
The first five comedians have scorched the woke handcuffs placed on stand-up in recent years, demanding a return to free expression.
Joe Rogan blamed woke restrictions for “killing” the big-screen comedy.
Sebastian Maniscalco is different.
The Chicago native, 49, uses his stand-up to X-ray societal norms through the prism of his Italian heritage. He’s also one of the most expressive comics alive, using his body language to hammer home punch lines.
The result? He’s sold out Madison Square Garden four times and recently performed at director Martin Scorsese’s 80th birthday bash.
Maniscalco isn’t looking to inflame the culture wars, though, or make political statements from either stand-up stages or “The Pete & Sebastian Show” podcast.
His new Netflix special, “Is It Me?” might change all that.
Maniscalco Has No Topics Off Limits
The material hits familiar targets, from marital disagreements to the folly of school pick-up zones. The comedian also slams woke culture early and often, even mocking audience members too afraid to laugh at the “wrong” joke.
It started with Maniscalco sharing what it’s like to be a dad in Los Angeles. His daughter’s school has a child who thinks he’s a lion. The tyke dresses (and roars) accordingly. The school tolerates the fantasy, as do some fellow parents.
Here’s how one dad reacted when Maniscalco brought up “Rory,” the lion in question.
“‘I know? Isn’t that fabulous?’”
“And I just floated away from that guy. I’m not gonna be talking to that guy for the rest of the semester,” Maniscalco vowed.
The comic might as well put on a MAGA hat to some observers. But he wasn’t finished.
He lamented how society had become ultra-sensitive in recent years, to the point that simply describing someone by their ethnic heritage became “problematic.” That’s not derogatory, he insisted. That’s just one tool in a comedian’s kit, a way to shape a joke or set the scene.
“You got people looking up going, ‘What does it matter?’” the comic said in an effeminate tone. “It matters. At the end of the story, you’re gonna find out why I said, ‘Asian guy.’ Loosen up your hole. It’s ok.”
The star of the upcoming “About My Father” with Robert De Niro also blasted the new real estate rules. He didn’t mention how the profession nixed the “master bedroom” designation because “master” has slave-era connotations.
He did torch the removal of “walk-in closets” as a home descriptor, with the fear that a small percentage of home buyers may require wheelchairs to navigate the room.
The Reviews Are In
“Is It Me?” hasn’t generated many reviews from professional critics. Still, both the Chicago Sun-Times and Decider.com, the latter a reliably liberal news site, praised the special.
That’s surprising. Critics often recoil at comedians for attacking the woke status quo or telling jokes that don’t align with Cancel Culture guardrails. Dave Chappelle’s infamous 2021 special, “The Closer,” got roasted by critics, for example.
Netflix caught serious heat for airing Chappelle’s special teeming with jokes about the trans community. Yet when Ricky Gervais hit similar topics earlier this year, via “SuperNature,” there was little to no outrage.
Now, one of the most mainstream comics in the business is blasting away at woke pieties, and even progressive critics can’t muster outrage over the material.
Mocking woke restrictions may become the new normal thanks, in part, to Maniscalco.