“Sometimes when my wife’s blowing me, I feel like she’s gagging for the wrong reasons.” That’s one of the opening salvos from Secret Time, Bert Kreischer’s new Netflix special. Kreischer bounds into the area with bear-like, Artful Dodger charisma to spare, expertly riling up the crowd. But then we’re brought back to how Kreischer’s wife “couldn’t give a handjob to save her life” and how “getting a sober handjob is a lot like getting molested at camp.”
One of Kreischer’s signature moves is this lip-biting look of wide-eyed glee that he gives after delivering a punchline, pulling himself away from the mic as if he wasn’t supposed to have it in the first place and thinks someone might take it away from him. Coupled with the reaction he generally gets, the audience also seems to think they’re all getting away with something someone told them not to do. Which circles back and reinforces the impression that Kreischer’s telling the dean what he thinks of him right to the dean’s face.
It’s a disappointing use of Kreischer’s considerable ability to let his audience in. Take one story halfway through the special that could have been simply a rote snowflake eye-roll about his daughter’s gym teacher having the kids play sports with an imaginary ball, but which turns into a heightened bit of concern when his daughter still fails to catch it. Here, Kreischer leads the audience a little bit ahead of the joke so they’ll have more fun when he whips around in front of them.
That goodwill has definitely vanished by the time we get to the last third of the set, which is almost entirely devoted to how funny black people think Kreischer is. “Any time a black guy walked by I was like ‘nerd alert!’” says Kreischer, in reference to one of his daughters thinking ‘nerd’ was the n-word. In an inversion of John Mulaney’s warning about part of his set being “playfully antisemitic,” Kreischer essentially reassures the audience that this is all okay with Jerry Maguire’s “I’m Mr. Black People!”
It’s impossible to watch Kreischer’s set and not think about his origin story. As a sixth-year senior at FSU, Kreischer was the subject of a Rolling Stone piece about the hardest partying student in the world, which, more due to the nature of a Rolling Stone profile than anything that’s actually Kreischer’s fault, is a grim read. The piece was later the basis for National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Normally, yes, that’d be kind of a neat line to draw and an unfair thing to keep measuring someone against later in their career. But Kreischer’s specials feel like an extremely deliberate extension of that legend—holding court at a tailgate. That was in 1997, and consciously or not, the special suffers from feeling like it wants to be on campus.
Bert Kreischer’s Secret Time is now streaming on Netflix.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @grahamtechler or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.