Danny Jolles Sees Both Sides Now In Interactive Comedy Special On YouTube – Forbes
(Image courtesy of Danny Jolles/Don’t Tell Comedy)
Danny Jolles prides himself on being something of a centrist when it comes to comedy, able to find humor and some understanding of both sides in many situations.
With You Choose, his free comedy special debuting today on YouTube, Jolles has taken that sensibility to its logical extreme, creating a “choose-your-own-adventure” approach that required him to record entire sets of jokes on both sides of a string of issues, and give audiences their choice of which side to watch as the show unfolds.
“Scientifically speaking, it was a nightmare to write,” Jolles said in a phone interview. “It was really hard. I’ll never do it again, for sure.”
That said, the project accomplished what Jolles set out to do: make a comedy special that’s actually, you know, special.
“On a deeper level about standup comedy, specials used to be special,” Jolles said. “Andy Kaufman did that performance where they’re going out to ice cream. Specials did special things. I wanted to make something special, good or bad.”
Jolles has been a comedian for more than a decade, part of the sketch comedy group Sasquatch, and also has had stints on several TV shows, most notably as George on long-time friend Rachel Bloom’s CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Jolles also has done plenty with social media, short clips and the like.
That’s all made Jolles keenly aware of the potentially lucrative spotlight afforded comedians by having their own special, especially if it was special enough to stick out. Thus his previous comedy special, 2021’s Danny Jolles: Six Parts, was equally ambitious in its own way, shot in six unlikely locations.
One need only look at the propulsive impacts such programming has had on the career arcs of comics such as Iliza Shlesinger, Hannah Gadsby, and Jerrod Carmichael. But there’s been a flood of comedy projects over the past few years, on multiple streaming services and beyond. Standing above the flood is difficult, particularly when you’re creating a complex project on a minimal budget for free distribution on YouTube.
So Jolles came up with the interactive approach as something indeed unique among comedy projects. He wrote and wrote and wrote, creating extended strings of jokes about topics such as getting engaged, magician David Blaine, and high school. Then he came up with an entirely different set of jokes on the other side of those same topics, and figured out how to create continuity between the two opposing strings of jokes.
He’s not the first to do a choose-your-own-adventure show. Netflix
In recording the special at a Los Angeles theater, Jolles taped it twice in front of a live audience. One taping featured the “pro” side jokes in a string, followed by an explanation of what’s going on, then the “con” side. The second taping reversed the order.
The response from audiences, upon learning of Jolles’ both-sides-now approach, was more than a bit of confusion initially.
“It’s such a betrayal of trust: I’m being authentic with you,” Jolles said of the performer’s relationship with the audience, before he turns it all upside down. Once he explains at the break, “It’s fun. By then, they knew what I was doing. You can see it in their face.”
At the end, Jolles reveals “the prestige,” the magician’s term for a trick’s payoff. In his case, it’s the thing he strongly believes in, and for which he’s not working both sides against the middle. And it’s a lesson about what counts.
“What it talks about is the importance of actions and not words,” Jolles said. “What I prove with the special is that I can walk on a stage and say anything. I’m a good talker. Know who else is a good talker? Politicians and performers. You have to trust actions. Opinions change over time.”