Stream It Or Skip It: 'David A. Arnold: It Ain't For The Weak' On Netflix, Finding Hope In His Experience And Strength – Decider

Stream It Or Skip It: 'David A. Arnold: It Ain't For The Weak' On Netflix, Finding Hope In His Experience And Strength – Decider

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David A. Arnold’s second Netflix stand-up comedy special is his first Netflix original, thanks in part to executive producer Kevin Hart. Filmed in his hometown of Cleveland, it includes an hour onstage, followed by a short documentary about Arnold and the making of the hour.
The Gist: Hart and Arnold have been working together for more than a minute. They had a deal with BET back in 2017 for a sitcom based on Arnold’s life, but that never made it to air. As a stand-up, Arnold had been grinding for two decades before he filmed his first stand-up special, Fat Ballerina, which Netflix acquired and released in March 2020 with little fanfare. Arnold did have previous success as a producer on Netflix’s Fuller House, and then as creator and showrunner for Nickelodeon’s That Girl Lay Lay, which debuted last year and is streaming on Netflix.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: As much performer and storyteller as he is comedian, perhaps it’ll remind you of a slightly less colorful Christopher Titus or John Leguizamo?
Memorable Jokes: There’s a six-minute set piece halfway into Arnold’s performance where the lights dim, as he sits in a chair under a spotlight to portray his grandfather, talking smack about young David before eventually coming to respect what the grandchild has made for himself.
Before the end of the hour, we also get treated to a colorful story about his deaf stepsister, and how the rest of the family adapted, or failed to adapt, to her condition.
Following a closing bow by Arnold, accompanied onstage by his wife and two daughters, a mini-documentary then backtracks six months to the start of his tour, interviewing Arnold, his wife and daughters, and following him back to Cleveland for visits with his mom, sister, adoptive father and stepfather, as well as his high school.
Our Take: The documentary segment is sincerely enlightening, so one might ask why not separate it from the special as its own episode? Or, failing that, putting it all back into chronological order, since the doc ends with the opening sequence to his stand-up hour.
At any rate.
One of Arnold’s opening salvos takes aim at people who tell long-winded stories that go nowhere. So where do Arnold’s own stories lead us? In a very real sense, he wants us to know about the depth of his family’s struggle over several generations, and what it has taken for him just to get onstage with the backing of Netflix. As he tells us in the doc, the title references his struggle to make it comedy: “I’ve been doing this for 27 years, inside of a vacuum, pretty much on the underbelly of this business.”
The title also references how he has tried to instill the best of his life lessons to his two daughters, now in their teens. He gets sidetracked ever so slightly down the well-trodden comedic path of kids these days and their participation trophies, but before and after that detour, he has realized that his kids are entitled mostly because of how good he’s had it. Especially since he got clean and sober before they were born.
He wants us to know that he’s tough on his eldest daughter because he now understands why his grandparents were tough on him, and has more empathy for what his stepfather (Bobby Massey) went through, quitting The O’Jays just before the rest of the group became a hit.
Will you stream or skip David A. Arnold's comedy special #ItAintForTheWeak on @netflix? #SIOSI
— Decider (@decider) July 27, 2022

Our Call: I still think you might feel more receptive to Arnold if you could watch the documentary BEFORE his stand-up, but until Netflix separates the two parts, I have to suggest you SKIP AHEAD before you STREAM IT.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.
Watch David A. Arnold: It Ain’t For The Weak on Netflix
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