"I just need to know what I need to do to win … what's the process?" says a wide-eyed Joe Mande attempting to uncover the secret to winning the American Humour Award, a fictional accolade he invented for the purpose of this stand-up special. According to its equally fictional Wikipedia page, this award celebrates excellence in comedy. It's represented in the form of a "Double Smile" trophy "rumored to have been designed by ancient Greeks or something."
This long, dynamic bit is a gem that exists only to preview and complement the actual special, which he'll get to in a second, as soon as he shows you his trophy shelf.
Even if you don't think you know Joe Mande, you probably know Joe Mande. You may know his work as a writer on the final three seasons of Parks and Recreation, in which he also played Pawnee resident Morris Lerpiss. You may be familiar with his writing (and occasional acting) for The Kroll Show. Maybe you've seen his book "Look at This Fucking Hipster," decorating a coffee table. If you're on Twitter, odds are he's come across your timeline. Fan of Conan? He's made some appearances there, too.
"Joe Mande's Award-Winning Comedy Special" is the comedian's very first special. It follows Bitchface, Mande's first comedy album, released in 2014.
You can tell Mande has written for TV, as his stand-up special — a form that typically has only a short intro, if that — is encased inside a full narrative with its own beginning and end. Mande even nods to the bit inside the performance itself, keeping a tally of the number of applause breaks and standing ovations he receives during the routine to better predict how high the judges will score him. Oh yeah, there's also a panel of judges.
Donning a gray sweatshirt, dark pants and white sneakers with framed glasses decorating his face, Mande speaks with a cadence that matches his outfit. He relays these longer anecdotes and bits in a way that's like listening to a friend tell a story animatedly across a table. He chuckles a little throughout, his features allowing a shadow of a smile even when contradicting his attempt at a serious monotone, suggesting that the audience is in for a surprise.
He covers an amalgamation of topics, spanning from MTV's dating show Next, to an embarrassing summer camp experience, then somehow eventually jumping to his thoughts on what it's like to be in ISIS. He recounts memories of childhood and seconds later is specifying exactly which part of a human being he would eat if he had to, a question he has thought about extensively. His world is both shocking and hilarious, a world where bear poop is confused with human poop and showing up to a taping of Fox News' Huckabee high out of your mind is just an afternoon activity. As the special progresses, it's easy to become increasingly grateful that he brought you along for the ride.
And if you're wondering, his trophy shelf is eventually home to an award, though in classic Mande fashion, it may not be the one you'd expect.