Neal Brennan is one of the really talented comedians out there who hasn’t broken big but has made a considerable dent. As a co-creator of Chappelle’s Show and a frequent collaborator with Dave Chappelle, he has a considerable reach in television and film but recently has shifted his focus to the stage. His style is very cerebral and blunt, but in his latest Netflix special, Neal Brennan: 3 Mics, he breaks format in a really bold way.

Brennan’s set features three microphones on the stage. One is for one-liners, another for stand-up, and one for emotional stuff. He alternates between them, dishing out jokes that showcase his background as a comedy writer for the best in the business. He’ll then tell funny stories that play on his experience as a touring comedian. And lastly, he will share unbelievably raw and deeply personal stories with no humor in them. He pulls back the surface of his craft and exposes himself in a way that is quite difficult to watch.

Last year, we saw Louis C.K. use his power to bend the idea of comedy with his astonishing Horace and Pete. Now with his Netflix special, Brennan takes the audience on a roller coaster that pushes them to the edges of emotion. It’s a testament to the ever-growing reach of outlets like Netflix and their ilk that this can exist a click away from mainstream movies, syndicated shows, and other more traditional comedy. This is an age where experimentation is rewarded.

Comedy is in a special place right now. There are five channels on satellite radio devoted to it. Comedians are delivering their specials via Seeso, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and whatever format will grant them the freedom to do it their way. Not to mention the countless comedians now hosting regular podcasts. And audiences are embracing it. Young people are discovering the next wave of talent and older audiences unwilling or unable to attend live performances now have a cornucopia of options.

Right now, for an hour of material that entertains in a really powerful and genuine way, Brennan’s 3 Mics is a must.

Nick Nunziata
Nick Nunziata created CHUD.com.