Valentine’s Day Absurdity
Owen Lane | Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Valentine’s Day may have passed a week ago, but that’s okay because the hysterical “Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special” is suitable for any (and no) time of year. This hour-long Netflix special is brought to you by the people behind “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping.” Scott Aukerman and The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) rely on parody taken to its most absurd degree and their styles meld together perfectly in this special.
The most pervasive motif in this whole special is the tendency for the next laugh to emerge completely unexpected. Just like in “Comedy Bang! Bang!” any semblance of plot is discarded for a string of hilariously preposterous connections. After all, what could Bolton’s motivation possibly be for holding a Valentine’s Day telethon? Saving Christmas, of course. Is there a murderous villain in this silly, innocuous show? Yes, and it’s an irate mattress store owner. This all sounds like nonsense, but Aukerman and The Lonely Island mange to synthesize disparate standalone jokes into a fantastic special.
And there is no doubt that these jokes are disparate. Their connection to the plot is often incredibly tenuous. Eric André teaches the crowd how to do the “Kupid Shufle” in a hilarious, self-conscious parody of the incessant PG party track. The idea barely makes sense in the context of the special; the only connection is that it has “Kupid” in the title. Bolton gives a “live” performance of “Jack Sparrow,” his original collaboration with The Lonely Island, as a loving tribute to a girlfriend that he met in line at Disneyland. A set-crashing group of punks prompts Bolton to perform Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which is solely an excuse to cut to a skit featuring a hyper-intense choreographer played by Michael Sheen. Sometimes the special can seem ridiculous or outright stupid, but there is almost always something brilliant going on beneath the surface.
One of the surprising delights in “Valentine’s Day Special” is Bolton’s own acting. He constantly looks like he is on the verge of laughing. Bolton’s obviously amateur acting only further complements the special’s ridiculous nature. Every skit transition is a cheesy, over-the-top wipe (think Bolton riding a giant bald eagle through the clouds while belting out a vibrato). At times Bolton genuinely seems to have no idea what is going on; he often appears shocked at the absurdity of his own special. Nevertheless, his mellifluous voice plays a large role throughout the music-centered show. It even features Maya Rudolph performing a song that is strictly an ode to key changes. The tenuous connection here is nothing more than the Key Change’s ubiquity in love songs.
This special gets so many things right yet its greatest achievement is the brilliant use of its all-star comedian cast. It works because Aukerman and The Lonely Island let their guests pursue their own comedy style. Randall Park accompanies Sarah Silverman in a characteristically offensive duet. Will Forte appears in his familiar, charming dimwit role as Bolton’s extremely dissimilar twin, Michael Fulton. Fred Armisen appears as a custom chocolatier in a sketch that could have been pulled directly from the writer’s room of his show “Portlandia.” Underrated gem Pete Davidson showcases his schizophrenic comedic intensity with his turn as a guest celebrity chef.
For less acquainted viewers, this special could serve as starter pack for discovering the funniest comedians currently working. However, “Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special” succeeds in its own right as a production that is amazingly creative while also being relentlessly funny.