The Howie Mandel All-Star Comedy Gala was filmed at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montréal. That is the most notable part of the special, which is probably why this was buried on The CW and not aired on NBC or Comedy Central.
For the most part, the gala was a bust. Howie Mandel was off. He seemed nervous and his jokes about his wife not needing his help to make simple life decisions did not work. In the middle of the show, there was a forced awkward bit where Mandel asked random strangers what they would like to see and those random ideas were implemented in a five-minute bit. The highlight of the bit and one of the funniest jokes of the night was Mandel’s subversion of knock knock jokes. When Mandel didn’t respond to knock knock. The man on the street said, “You’re supposed to say who’s there?” Mandel shot back with, “I’m pretending I’m not home right now because I don’t know you that well.”
As for the rest of the comedians, they weren’t much better. Alonzo Bodden called out American hypocrisy by joking that if Jesus came to America today as a brown skinned Middle Eastern refugee talking about helping the poor and the sick, he would not be welcome. Gina Brillon did a set of fairly run-of-the-mill woman and the gym jokes. Matt Donaher embraced his stereotypical nerd appearance too much and told stereotypical jokes, like his gynecologist telling him that he’s a hypochondriac. Russell Peters, Tom Papa, Jo Koy, Jay Pharaoh, Iliza Schlesinger, Ryan Hamilton, and JB Smooth also performed material from their standup acts. If you are familiar with these comedians, you will be disappointed. If Howie Mandel’s All Star Comedy Gala is your introduction to these comedians, not one of these performances will make you want to seek out more specials from these comedians.
The best part of the special had nothing to do with Mandel or the other stars of the gala. It was the archive from old stand up specials featuring the likes of Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Dave Chapelle, and Jim Gaffigan. Unfortunately, these moments were tacked on before commercials breaks.
In the end, The Howie Mandel All-Star Comedy Gala fails for the same reason NBC’s multiple revivals of Last Comic Standing have failed: five minute sets of random comedians’ cleanest work combined with excessive commercials is tedious. It should be a great way for stand up fans to find new comedians and to introduce stand up to a larger audience, but only it makes everyone long for Netflix specials where comedians have free reign over their material.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 10