David Spade is greeted with a standing ovation by the Minneapolis crowd at the open of his new Netflix stand-up special, Nothing Personal.  Because he has yet to lay a joke on the crowd, we have to assume it’s an ovation for a familiar face, for a chance to return to something resembling comedy normalcy post-Covid, and for the comforts of Spade-brand material that promises to titillate but not arouse.

Netflix

The Unbearable Weirdness of a Masked Standing Ovation

The special’s title, Nothing Personal, sums it up pretty nicely.  Unlike a Maria Bamford who finds hilarity in personal struggles or a Dave Chappelle who gleefully provokes the status quo (sometimes just for it’s own sake), Spade is offering something less stimulating.

Which isn’t to say Spade isn’t funny.  But when you do not one but two separate bits about the challenges of airplane travel?  You ain’t trying for your version of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette.

He opens with Covid material, a subject that probably begs to be addressed but already feels tiresome.  Maybe it’s because that’s all we could talk about for two freaking years, but is there anything left to say, funny or otherwise, about lockdown rules, vaccines,  and Dr. Fauci?  Thankfully, Spade moves through the pandemic material quickly and gets to his bread and butter.

The key to Spade’s comedy has always been two-fold:  First, his willingness to take down celebrities much more famous than he is (his most successful SNL bit, by far,  was his vicious Hollywood Minute), and second, his self-deprecating understanding that he ranks far below his targets on the fame-and-fortune scale. Yeah, he’ll take shots at Stallone but he saves the sharpest jabs for himself.

Broadway Video

No one kicked celebs in the nuts like Spade

He trades in salacious rumors about Sly’s anatomy (not confirming the stories are true, but what if they were?) and takes shots at Caitlyn Jenner, affirming her choices while suggesting that someone her age should have picked a name like “Barb.” 

There are funny bits about his stint on Bachelor in Paradise, where his accommodations are overrun by crabs and a lemur is mistaken for a jaguar.  The infamous ladies’ man gets in some sexy talk about online porn,  taking pictures of his manhood, and a threesome gone wrong.  (The girl in the threesome flakes so Spade and friend bring in another guy.  “In hindsight, it was a little gay.”)

But Spade is at his most interesting when he addresses, almost always indirectly, the realities of getting older.  A funny bit about people who say “I’m a hugger!” morphs into “Come here, I’m an ass grabber!” Unlike other mature comics who complain cancel culture is ruining comedy, he acknowledges older guys can be creeps who hate wokeness when it doesn’t allow them to have their fun.

While he mocks older guys who refuse to change, he can be one himself, getting frustrated with a young employee at a weed store who’s too anxious to wait on him. “I can’t take younger kids who want to quit everything!”

CTV

Spade is terrified of getting older, surprised by middle-aged weight gain, dreading a colonoscopy, looking in mirrors and being dismayed by what he sees.  But he never dwells on these fears for long, always moving on to safer, less personal bits about flirting, texting, and the evolution of pubic hair.

Nothing Personal is the Yacht Rock of comedy -- familiar with a pleasant, well-crafted groove, bringing back fond memories of jokes from younger days, sometimes naughty but nothing to truly rock your boat. 

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