It can be hard to know what will give a special a guaranteed sense of longevity, but over and over again, comics tend to aim for the evergreen. Specials that mix the silly with the observant like Greg Behrendt’s Greg Behrendt Is Uncool, Sheng Wang’s Sweet & Juicy, Gary Gulman’s In This Economy?, Chelsea Peretti’s One of the Greats, Sasheer Zamata’s Pizza Mind, and Kumail Nanjiani’s Beta Male are endlessly watchable, even as joke forms change and trends shift. These specials become relics that bridge generations, not draw lines of demarcation around differing eras. To this end, Jake Rush has produced something that will stand the test of time.
Within almost the first minute of his special, Rush jokes that “Just last week, I actually delivered a pizza to the university I graduated from. To people that knew me,” positioning himself as an every man. He follows it up with a joke about having majored in theater that begins to braid the DNA of his comedy together. He quotes someone at his graduation, saying ““Hey everybody, give it up if you’re an actor! I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was actually the best advice I got in college.” This one-two punch that shares some overlap with the one-liners of Anthony Jeselnik continues throughout. Bringing up his autism, Rush mentions “When I was in preschool they thought I was autistic. And by the time I was in high-school, they knew for sure.” Discussing romance, he remarks “On dates, she’ll be like I’m sorry, I don’t want to bore you with my problems. And I’ll be like ‘thank you so much.’” However, there’s more to Rush’s set than just sharp wording.
Given the general apolitical nature of his set, Jake Rush is able to be as silly as he wants, engaging the audience at every turn.
A few minutes in, Rush mentions he used to work as a college comedian, and made slight waves after seeing a sign calling for the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” to be canceled, clarifying “How can you cancel that Christmas carol because the woman is in danger, but completely turn a blind eye to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer?” He then goes on to dismantle the song, turning it over in a funny new direction with each line, going from the main premise (a drunken elderly woman gets trampled by reindeer), considering the hoofprints on her front and claw marks on her back, before shifting the joke with the line “Newsflash: reindeer don’t have claws.” The joke then pivots to how she was flipped over for possible murder, and ends with a degree of certainty that she was a cult sacrifice. Earlier in his set, Rush jokes that being autistic is like being an alien trying to act normal, with lines like ““Oh no, don’t go to the beach and sit facing away from the ocean.” It’s in these moments that Rush’s inventive comedy brain really shines.
This silliness allows Rush to comment on culture while still avoiding political discourse.
It becomes apparent a few minutes into the set that Rush is going to transition to discussing his takes on life in 2022, with a throughline that ends up being that no one can really be the best, and those that are may be outliers you wouldn’t wish to exist as. After some jokes about struggling financially and donating sperm (“Becoming a sperm donor is really the ultimate sign you’re an underachiever.”), Rush begins to dig into life in 2022 (the special was taped last year). When discussing the use of the year as a marker for progress (Really, we’re doing x bad thing? It’s 2022!), he wonders if they did this throughout history (“Really, we’re still burning witches? It’s 1451.”) After discussing the benefits of the apocalypse (“An apocalypse means never having to find out that you’re not enough.”), Rush begins to elaborate on the trappings of social strivings for greatness.
Through thoughtful comedy, Rush ends up making an eternally smart argument for the benefits of being the best version of yourself you can, even if you’re not the best at something.
Moving from the horror’s of having the world’s smartest baby, who began talking at four months, and conversing at six months (“Who does mommy love?” “Whom.”), to Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Phelps, Rush lays down a clever argument for embracing your own good enough-ness. Over and over, Rush clarifies that greatness might not be as incredible as it sounds, pointing out that Daniel Day-Lewis is willing to do anything to prepare for a role, but that ultimately it just might mean he’ll do anything if it’ll be on film. On the swimmer Michael Phelps, Rush points out “Michael Phelps used to spend 364 days a year in the pool, and now, he’s horribly depressed because he never learned how to be a person.” He then adds with mocking sincerity, “But how can you say it wasn’t worth it? He has 23 gold medals. That’s rarer than happiness.”
In Rush’s estimation, striving for being good is better than aiming to be great. If Rush — a comic that can bend great one-liners and build silly observations to the delight of his audience — is an example of good, then he makes an incredible argument.
Jake Rush's new special Overwhelmingly Neutral will be available to watch for free on YouTube tonight at 7 PM CT!