Review: Neal Brennan’s Netflix special ‘3 Mics’ is honestly hilarious

Neal Brennan 3 Mics on Netflix

Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics is among the hilarious stand-up specials to hit Netflix, of late. Debuting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Brennan’s inventive hour-long brings the comedian’s ambitious multi-mic show — originally developed back in 2015 — to the living rooms and couches of millions.

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics offers more than your traditional stand-up special. As its title suggests, Brennan works the stage with three separate microphones, through which he offers three different performance approaches, “One Liners,” “Emotional Stuff” and “Stand-Up.” This technique sets the stage for a unique show that ultimately delivers on the traditional stand-up promise — jokes, jokes and more jokes — but also provides the comedian with the unusual opportunity to share a number of deeply personal experiences, giving viewers interesting insight into the multi-talented writer, director and Chappelle’s Show co-writer / co-creator.

Brennan tackles a variety of topics in 3 Mics, from religion to neck tattoos, student debt to concealed carry, relationships to racism. The comedian also takes aim at a host of targets, himself included, over the course of the special. He mocks his own hippocratic veganism, points out the NBA’s ridiculous and condescending approach to increasing Latino viewership and even calls out the pope, who he terms a “pimp with an unlimited budget.” “He has red shoes and a clear car,” quips the comedian with utter sincerity, “that’s a pimp.”

The “One Liners” portion of Brennan’s hour-long delivers exactly that…. good ole’ fashioned one-liners. “The internet is like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book,” jokes the comedian, “except every adventure ends with me masturbating.” This is just one of the many rapid 3 Mics’ one-liner cracks dropped throughout the special. Pedophiles and people who dine out at grocery store restaurants also make for good one-joke fodder.

One of Brennan’s funnier bits (from the “Stand-up” mic) finds the comedian sharing some of the experiences he’s had with his black friends. This, oftentimes, means engaging in conversations where men attempt to “out-tough” one another through examples of their bad childhoods. The joke peaks with Brennan’s contribution — comparing himself to one black friend, whose dad vanished when he was only six — by saying his mother would similarly “often disappear into a good book.” His hilarious followup discussion of slavery, which Brennan says would constantly be of topic if he were black, also kills.

Neal Brennan 3 Mics on Netflix B

While 3 Mics is packed with comedic substance, a good portion of the special is devoted to personal stories that are anything but. That’s not to say these parts, aka the “Emotional Stuff,” are inadequate as they routinely amount to some of the most engaging material of all. Brennan’s honesty (which doesn’t necessarily always shine him in a positive light either) is refreshing and wholly captivating. The story of his reconciling with his dying father, who he describes as a “violent alcoholic,” is particularly gripping, and resultingly offers a powerful closing message.

Brennan’s 3 Mics joins the elite ranks of Maria Bamford‘s 2012 The Special Special Special, which plays out in the living room of her Los Angeles home for an audience made up solely of her mother and father, and Reggie Watts’ 2016 release Spatial, which infuses music, tap dancing and improvisational sitcom bits, pushing the very boundaries of the comedy special.

Neal Brennan: 3 Mics is streaming now on Netflix.