While the execution of its undeniably original concept is solid, the idea of The Honeymoon Stand Up Special ultimately promises more than it delivers. The unique, three-part special from (fairly) recently wed comics and Another Period co-stars Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher comes at the audience in three segments. After a brief backstage bit about who gets to go first (Natasha pretends to relent but swans out regally when she, “the more famous” one, is introduced), Leggero and Kasher each do a half-hour set, followed by another 30 minutes where the pair brings other couples on stage for a “roast” of their relationships.
Both Leggero and Kasher are provocateurs, with a projected energy that trafficks in skillfully turned outrageousness. Leggero—resplendently swinging her visibly pregnant belly in a fur coat and spangly blouse—plays the confidently self-absorbed-diva role to ironic effect. Or half-ironic, anyway, as her roleplaying superiority couples with a genuine, gleeful aggressiveness toward those she holds her inferiors. Greeting the audience’s cheers at her pregnancy, she demurs, “Please hold your applause, I’m still in the abortion zone. We’ll see how you do.” After an extended run mocking Donald Trump supporters in dismissively funny terms (“Say what you want, they know how to use every part of the opossum.”), Leggero doubles down, exclaiming, “I’ll stereotype, I don’t care!”
Kasher, too, mixes self-deprecation into an attacking style, although with less of Leggero’s smilingly patient punchlines and more a rapid-fire, hyper-verbal animation that’s simultaneously effective and sort of exhausting. Speaking of his impending fatherhood, Kasher rattles off a self-evaluation that he’s “a little immature and vulgar and adulthood is right in front of me” that sums up his set and his persona aptly. Kasher and Leggero set their tone in that opening bit, with him running verbal rings around an issue until Leggero, lying in wait, asserts her top-dog status with a well-timed zinger. As Kasher delves into autobiographical material (about his boundary-averse, deaf feminist mom; his discovery of masturbation), he uses his gangly physicality with a silent-movie expressiveness that amps up his already motormouthed delivery. Like Leggero’s, his 30-minutes feels like enough—they’re funny people, but their individual shticks can be a lot to digest.
It’s when the couple comes together for the third part of the show that The Honeymoon Stand Up Special underscores how little insight into the subject of marriage this unique comic team-up is prepared to deliver. In their separate sets, both Leggero and Kasher do plenty of material on their young marriage and impending parenthood. Leggero scores most playing with the audience’s expectations, feinting toward earnest emotion before pivoting to the rug-pulling exit line. Speaking with supposed sincerity about the idea of her child carrying on her legacy, Leggero snaps off just what she means, explaining that someone has to “grow up and call Kylie Jenner’s kid a whore.” Kasher’s relationship humor is targeted more at his own self-described failures (including that he’s viscerally grossed out by about “85 percent” of all kids), a voluble running-anxiety monologue interspersed with sneakily snarky outward jabs. Both comics relish the chance to bring their appreciative audience’s reactions into the spotlight, with Kasher following a run about grandmother sex and grandfather racism by rounding on the groaning crowd with a faux sincere, “I want to apologize for the historical accuracy of that joke.”
When they bring a series of four volunteer couples from that crowd to pick apart their relationships, Leggero and Kasher walk the line between helpful and cutting as a consistently funny two-handed comedy team. Like their individual sets, there’s some practiced material here about their own relationship and their unsurprisingly winking approximation of religious ritual in their Jewish nuptials. (Catholic Leggero converted to Kasher’s Judaism, which provides the duo with a solid base of “us against the patriarchy” material.) But as the two dissect each couple’s pet peeves and issues (ranging from actual pet problems to one partner whose apparent lack of human emotion Kasher seizes on for an extended riff), it becomes apparent that the comics are content to gang up on their giggling victims without applying their unique perspective as married comics in any meaningful way.
Good comedians take apart relationships (along with the rest of human experience) either to see how they work or to provide fodder for jokes. Or, likely, both. And Leggero and Kasher are very good comedians. But, in their separate sets, neither takes much of an opportunity to engage with the absent partner’s place in their relationship for anything but punchlines. The closest we get is Kasher’s brief digression into how he and his wife are greeted differently by men online, with Leggero’s most innocuous posts met with “a flood of gross, creepy dudes.” “I have a live-in education of what women have to suffer through,” muses Kasher, continuing, “It’s like having a mirror image right in my house.” Leggero, too, touches on the topic of how fucking creepy men are (comparatively), doing extended crowd work interviewing the depressingly large number of women in the audience who’ve seen dudes jerking off in public. “We’ve just decided not to do that,” says Leggero. Point: women.
Seeing two intimately connected, experienced stand-ups apply their shared experiences to a special is such a rare and promising prospect that the payoff here emerges as merely amusing. The pair flank their wary subjects as they press for details to be turned into laugh lines, Leggero delivering playfully arch put-downs with her signature aplomb. (“And you do realize that when Napoleon was your age, he’d conquered half of Europe,” she responds to one young husband’s video gaming.) Kasher, characteristically, is more actively engaged in the roasting, coming at the couples with a more nimbly improvisational vibe. (Skills he demonstrated during his impressive run on @midnight.) Here, the couple-vs.-couple battle is invariably one-sided, with Kasher and Leggero combining to pummel their volunteer victims with an unpredictable one-two punch that’s never less than entertaining. It’s just that neither comic is particularly interested in easing back on their respective shticks to incorporate much of the potential insight their well-honed doubles’ act could use.