In the comic books, innocent idiots get their super-powers when they’re bitten by radioactive spiders, blasted with gamma rays, or struck by magic lightning. For our stand-up heroes, however, comedy super-powers are generally bestowed in one of two ways.

The first, of course, is a desperate need for attention. High-schooler Albert Brooks developed a bit about the world’s worst escape artist that led Carl Reiner (father of best pal and fellow student Rob Reiner) to go on The Tonight Show and dub Brooks “the funniest person I know.” Albert had a frantic desire to be funny, he says, because “if you’re not going to be a quarterback and you’re not going to be a biology honors student,” it was the only way to be liked by girls.

Classmates

High schooler Albert Brooks, seen here not excelling in sports or academics

Sarah Silverman was also in the “look at me” camp, but at an even earlier age.  “My dad taught me swears when I was a toddler and I saw, at a really early age, that if I shocked people, I would get approval, and it made my arms itch with glee,” she says. “I got addicted to it. It became this source of power in a totally powerless life.”

Jackhole Productions

Young Sarah Silverman, spewing adorable streams of profanity
 

Nice!  But as Nick Kroll details in Little Big Boy, his new comedy special on Netflix, there’s a second way to get comedy superpowers:  Extreme and utter humiliation. Here’s how it went down.

Netflix

Not seen here: Kroll is wearing pants

Cycle back in time to Kroll’s seventh-grade year. The setting? Jenny’s house, the site of his friend group’s first-ever boy/girl party.  Nick was dressed for love:  Purple button-down shirt and GapKids khakis with the elastic waist (“for the kids who were like ‘I need to go poopy now!’”) 

Kroll selected his outfit so carefully because of one girl in particular:  Lizzy, the object of a crush that had lasted the entirety of Nick’s childhood. His seduction plan was engineered well in advance.  He approached her while she was watching TV, casually leaned against the wall, and hit her with his practiced opening line: 

“So did you hear Mrs. Goldman’s daughter might have cancer?:”

As Kroll describes, he was straight-up “spitting hot game.”  But just as Lizzy turned to look at Nick, disaster struck.  Jenny (you remember Jenny, she’s the girl throwing the party) sneaks up on Kroll and pantses him.  

“Those GapKids khakis with the elastic waist come right on down. And then below that, I’m wearing silk boxer shorts like a businessman on vacation in Hong Kong. Those slide right on down.”

It didn’t help that Lizzy was still sitting down.  She turned to Nick and “is now eye to eye with my bald little cashew.” She’s understandably horrified, perhaps as much as Jenny, the girl who had no idea what havoc she had unleashed into an unsuspecting junior-high world.  

As for Kroll?   It was a moment that would reverberate through the rest of his life.

“I am now a comedian.”  

See some of the bit here.

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Top image: Netflix

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