Icing: DANNY JOLLES’ Debut Standup Comedy Special “Six Parts” Makes for A WHOLE Lot of Fun (and Humanity)
I’m just going to come out and say it, you NEED to watch DANNY JOLLES‘ debut hour comedy special, Six Parts (care of 800 Pound Gorilla Records), RIGHT NOW. I know that’s a bold statement to lead with, but it couldn’t be a more honest one. Let me start defending myself before the arrows start flying. First off, Jolles has an impressive list of credits that are well-earned. His acting roles have included George in the CW’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning Crazy-Ex Girlfriend, Jacob in Hulu’s Ramy, and on Netflix’s The Joel McHale Show. He has been performing stand-up for the last decade. He’s been on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central, was one of the New Faces at the critically-acclaimed Just For Laughs festival in 2017, and you can watch him on The Comic’s Comic, and with Rachel Bloom on VULTURE: Two Friends. Experience, CHECK!
In his first hour-long special, Jolles breaks convention, taking the stage in six unique Los Angeles venues over the course of six nights. The special was filmed pre-COVID and really does make one appreciate the power of human interaction, as well as the freedom that live comedy affords comic and audience. Jolles’ amicable style and, ever so slightly, nervous energy relaxes the audience just enough for the juggernaut of hilarious content that quickly compels them into a state of laughter. The special is broken down into parts (SIX to be exact) which, now, may remind you of the just released Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. How convenient! If a man is the sum of his parts, Jolles’ parts would include the sections “About Me,” “Sex,” “Love,” “Technology,” “Gallery,” and “Unpopular Opinions.”
Those “Six Parts” reveal themselves in a most fluid and connected manner, and cover a range of topics that each audience wholeheartedly embraces. Some of the topics Jolles dives into include being called a “beta meta” male in New York, a rather alarming bed-wetting history that’s informed Jolles’ social life (as well as his future in comedy), his super funny take on mattress ads, the technological vision of the p*rn industry, the importance of good sex ed, the even more important sanctity of friendly break ups, our “Truman Show” social media world, the fallability of science, the comic’s beautiful defense of professional wrestling, and an absolutely EPIC story of consent involving basketball player Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. (HEY, how many times are you gonna get to write his entire name out!) Powerful yet disarming comedy content, CHECK!
I’m going to let our interview with Jolles do the heaving lifting of my evidence for the quality of this special, but I’d like to predict that this special will be studied intently, and looked back upon by comedy educators with great appreciation. It ticks all the boxes necessary to make a comedy special successful, but, above that, it leaves the audience with a sensation of deep satisfaction: one in which they were thoroughly entertained, as well as, part of something brilliant and genuinely good for humanity. Now get out there and be good to your fellow beings, while enjoying your life on this crazy planet… watching awesome comedy specials, of course.
COMEDY CAKE: Thankfully, we’re seeing some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel now *knocks on protective visor*, but what was your first reaction when you realized there was a legit deathly virus spreading around the planet uncontrollably? How has it impacted your comedic work and your attitude toward performing?
DANNY JOLLES: My first reaction was complete and utter denial. I was so convinced it was a quick problem that surely couldn’t last for AN ENTIRE YEAR. I had just booked a huge thing that was filming the week AFTER everything shut down so I was very hopeful. Then it fell through. Everything fell through. This special was close to places and it all fell through. Then Adam Schlesinger from Crazy Ex Girlfriend died and that was heartbreaking and made it very real.
Eventually, I just tried to embrace the suck. I started doing every Zoom show I could. Nowhere Comedy Club, KO Comedy and more created wonderful outlets for comedians. I wrote a lot of stuff including a Chanukah movie with my friend and CXG alum Skylar Astin that I think is the best thing I’ve ever written. I figured out a way to get this special out. I embraced the suckiness of it all and now that shows are coming back, I’m just so excited. I think this whole thing made me appreciate how lucky I am to do comedy and how much I need it. If anything, I will never turn down a show ever again. I love comedy and I’ll never take a crowd for granted ever again!
CAKE: Your special “Six Parts” was filmed in pre-pandemic times at multiple venues. How did you go about choosing the venues you’d be performing at during the taping?
JOLLES: So, I did it with Don’t Tell Comedy and we did this over two weekends. Honestly, a lot of it was about what venues were near each other and what we could afford. Our budget was INSANELY small for a special, better yet a multi-location special… The thing I love about comedy is that it can happen anywhere. That’s really the beauty of it. We just showed up at each venue a couple hours before, rearranged the room, and prayed for the best. And it worked!
CAKE: Did the jokes and stories for “Six Parts” fuel your venue choices or visa versa?
JOLLES: The crowds factored in more than anything else. The way we would do it is I would perform 3 ten minute “parts” per venue, with other material sprinkled in so I could essentially reset for each part. We made decisions based on what we felt did best where, depending on the crowd reactions. It was really exciting to slowly realize after the show what we thought was going to be used there and what we still had to get.
CAKE: During the special you talk about having a face that makes you incredibly approachable, so much so that people often share their opinions with you unprovoked. Besides the experiences you cover in the special, what have been the most surprising interactions you’ve had with strangers?
JOLLES: Oh maaaaan, so many times and so often. I’ve taken probably 6000 stranger couple’s photos in my life. One time a stranger online wrote me a long email about how my eyes are buggy and whether I had ever thought about getting surgery to correct them. Just an unprompted email asking me about how I could live with my eyes looking this way. It really ruined a weekend, that email.
CAKE: You use a very personal bedwetting story in the special to address the humorous side of having a nervous demeanor. Do you ever debate putting something revealing in a set, or is it all or nothing for the love of comedy? Also, do you remember the name of that condensation detecting torture device AND do you wonder if there is a therapy group dedicated to folks that associate ordinary sounds with said PTSD-generating devices?
JOLLES: I never really think about anything about myself going into the act. It just doesn’t bother me. I get way more worried about family and relationships, that I’ll sensor but I don’t really care about me. I just never want to call out someone I love in a joke.
So I just went on Amazon and googled bed wetting and THERE IT WAS! It appears it is still the top way we teach kids how to stop bed wetting which is insane! Also, interesting fact, it’s mainly a boy issue bed wetting and therefore, nobody talks about it. I have guys all the time after shows whisper to me they had the same thing. But it’s whispered like a dirty secret. I think it’s way more common than people realize.
CAKE: Don’t want to trigger you, but you make a most hilarious and valid point about the marketing of mattress commercials. Do you think this special is unique in addressing that the key to conquering the mattress-buying male demographic of the population is just that old cliché phrase “sex sells?”
JOLLES: IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE TO ME! Every other product uses this technique, I don’t understand why mattresses haven’t figured it out. I genuinely thought about making a business for it, that’s how big an oversight I believe it is. I hope a mattress company sees this joke and runs with it. I WILL BE YOUR SPOKESPERSON!
CAKE: A most unappreciated topic you cover in the special is the incredible lead the adult film industry has always had in technological innovation on the Internet. Do you believe the industry will be remembered for it’s inventions/innovations (lie. pop-up ads, video hubs, user-generated content, diversity casting, etc) or will Hollywood be taking ALL the credit?
JOLLES: Hollywood will take the credit for everything they can, always! Even right now, Hollywood is like “it’s so important we make sure everyone is healthy on set! Health is crucial!” Meanwhile, p*rn performers get tested practically daily for STDS and they’ve been doing it for YEARS. It’s a phenomenal industry that gets no credit for how innovative they are!
CAKE: In part two of the special you address the topic of sex. We couldn’t help but appreciate how you compared that often hopeless prime directive of “the act” to a game of “Where’s Waldo?” In the hilarious bit, you point out that SexEd has long glossed over the fundamentals of having healthy, mutually pleasurable sexual relations and, instead, emphasized the negative consequences. Do you think SexEd classes should require comedians as teacher’s aides in future?
JOLLES: Hahaha. Kind of yes! Levity helps make things approachable and we need to have a more real conversation about sex in our classes. It’s really important we start normalizing and destigmatizing the conversations around sex.
CAKE: Can love and sex be mutually exclusive? Of course. Did this special require both? Absolutely. Which leads me to my next question, why do you think so many humans get so nasty after breakups? Your super funny line of “if you have sex with me, I’m rooting for you for the rest of my life” really, REALLY needs to catch on. Do you think it will?
JOLLES: Sadly, I don’t. I think the issue is people see time as currency. So when someone breaks up with you, people seem to view it as someone stole a year from them and THAT IS WRONG! They didn’t. You grew together in that year and you’re better for it. I think a lot of it is pressure to be married by this age, engaged by this age, ETC. So breakups become this thing of, “you cost me time.” We have to stop doing that. I am so lucky to still be close with many of my exes and I think my life is so much better as a result.
CAKE: After addressing your interactions with protective boyfriends, you close the third portion of the special with some sports lore, most particularly the rumor tied to former Congalese American basketball player known for his defense, Dikembe Mutombo. Do you think Dikembe realized he would be a trailblazer in the arena of sexual consent when he walked into those Georgetown bars long ago?
JOLLES: He for sure didn’t! No way he knew. He was just trying to be honest and as it turned out, that became, in hindsight, by far the best policy.
CAKE: Should Dikembe listen to this set, what do you hope his reaction will be?
JOLLES: I would hope he realizes I’m dead serious. Actually, fun fact, this is maybe the only joke I’ve ever written that worked day one. I literally thought of it at an open mic, said it, and it was done. Just an immediate winner (usually jokes take me a while). And then, there was a panic moment, because here I am endorsing this guy, and what if he’s not a great guy. What if he actually did have an allegation or worse? The whole joke then wouldn’t be true.
I encourage everyone to go to the “Humanitarian” section of Dikembe Mutumbo’s Wikipedia page. Heads up, it’s long. What that man has done for Congo and all of Africa is tremendous. He is a wonderful human who takes my theory about him and blows it out of the water. If he sees it, I hope he knows that, as a sports fan, I consider it an honor to call myself a fan of his. Both for his on-court accomplishments, but mainly for his actions off the court. Dikembe Mutumbo is the best!
CAKE: I could not stop laughing at your revelation that social media comment sections are often just a “Truman Show” of dishonest feedback. Do you think we’ll still all be “YAAAS” encouraging one another in our self-driving cars of the future?
JOLLES: Oh the Yas’s have only gotten worse over time. I hate it. I wish it wasn’t true. It’s so dangerous because it stops self-examination which is the only way we improve as humans. Kick the yas people out of your life!
CAKE: You taped the fifth part of the special in a gallery. Are you ever tempted to touch the artwork in a museum?
JOLLES: Fun fact! My mom is an artist! www.ronnijolles.com if anyone is interested. So I have spent a solid chunk of my life in art galleries. I am very good at not touching art; but yes, it’s tempting.
CAKE: Just like you point out that it’s good to be exposed to people from all walks of life, would you say it’s good to get out of one’s comedy comfort zone? Say if you’ve only ever watched standup that involved watermelon crushing, would it really be a revelation to expand one’s horizons to try a flaming burger comic?
JOLLES: Definitely for that person!!! Honestly, I encourage everyone to just go to see stand up comedy live. Stand up comedy is like hockey, it’s fun on TV but a different experience live. Go see every comic you like live, go see every comic that interests you even a little live. Go see a comic you’ve never heard of! Go see live comedy! I promise you, if you go to a bunch of comedy shows you’ll fall in love with the art form, and, potentially, out of love with smashing watermelons.
CAKE: It’s next to impossible to pigeonhole this special into one category, which I’d say is the mark of a great special! There are so many great bits in the special it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I do hold a special place in my heart for the “unpopular opinions” category when you discuss wrestling critics and the acting prowess of The Rock. You point out that almost everything we watch on television is staged or “fake” in some way. Do you find it deeply satisfying to both make a point to your naysayers and make them laugh at the same time?
JOLLES: It is truly my favorite thing. I can’t tell you how many people, just with that joke, have given pro wrestling another shot. And on a bigger note, for some of my jokes about equal rights and bigger issues, how many people I’ve talked to who it seemed might have made them think of it a little differently. I always try to come from a place of respect, but I also really stand firm on my points without backing down. I like to think I have occasionally changed a person’s mind on a topic… and I love that.
CAKE: I’ve changed up a question I ask in a lot of interviews just for you. What would be your favorite guilty pleasure dessert of quarantine time, and why?
JOLLES: Oh maaaaan, my fiancée tries to keep up dessert free, but if it’s happening, she makes some peanut butter cookies that are MIND BLOWING. Those cookies got me through some rough early quarantine times.
CAKE: Mmmmm, COOKies…..
Mentions: Six Parts is now available on YouTube for FREE streaming, Amazon Prime to rent, and as an audio comedy album on Spotify, and wherever is streamed or sold. You can follow Jolles on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Album artwork courtesy of 800 Pound Gorilla Records.