Calling it what it is. Laurie Kilmartin did not want to trick or shock anyone with the content in her new Seeso special, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad. However, it is more than just dark one liners. In addition to the funny hahas, Kilmartin tells her story about losing her father to lung cancer and explores live tweeting grief while in the process. An Emmy nominated Conan writer and a Last Comic Standing alum, her tweets went viral, “Losing dad, gaining followers. The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Macabre humor has evolved with technology.
The opening shot of the special is an array of brightly colored note cards obviously referring to jokes. To see how a “tight pussy” relates to her dying father builds great anticipation for some blue comedy. This is not a comedy show for someone faint of heart. Kilmartin dives headfirst into the cringe. Her so-called first joke of 45 is a knock, knock. “Who’s there? Not my dad, he’s dead.” It feels raw and clever. Before continuing into the full act, a good portion of the special is dedicated to the exposition of the concept.
An introduction to Kilmartin’s performance includes a series of interviews from the comic, her mother, her sister, and comedic peers. While her routine is chocked filled with her mom as the punchline, it’s clear her family approves and are supportive of the edgy depiction of loss. The support of Andy Kindler, Cheryl Holliday, Conan O’Brien, and Patton Oswalt represents the approval of the comedy community. Listening to their analyzations and reactions to the @anylaurie16’s Twitter feed induces meta thinking. The self reflection indicates a progressive side to how people communicate difficult feelings with social media.
It as well creates an entry way for those who are less familiar or less in touch with this measure of tragedy. A clip of the Kilmartin working out the material on stage was shown. In it, she was heckled by an audience member who lossed a loved one from cancer. The inclusion aids in showing that these jokes underwent a method to be written and performed. Verbalizing one liners pertaining to death in front of an audience is going to elicit a different, more visceral reaction than tweeting.
This all makes the transition into the actual stage recording much smoother. While most of the time comedians play with status to go dark and brutal, this introduction fulfills that vulnerability which enables the success of such humor. The act continues where it left off with the knock, knock joke and progresses forward to hit topics like dicks, race, boobs, the Catholic church, and Hitler. All of these resourcefully tie back to watching her father leave this world. Kilmartin is able to stay in her wheelhouse of dirty punchlines and recount a personal, tragic happening.
Beautifully, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad captures humanity. It has an intellectual depth and real emotions. She confronts the things which are not supposed to be said and validates laughter without alienation or any harmful judgement. Conceptually and mechanically, this special reconsiders how comedy is perceived and enjoyed.
You can stream Laurie Kilmartin’s 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad right now on Seeso.