Catherine Cohen’s Exuberant Cabaret Comedy Dazzles in The Twist ? She’s GorgeousPhoto by Aaron Ricketts, courtesy of Netflix Comedy Reviews
Catherine Cohen’s debut Netflix special The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous, an effervescent hour filled with songs and theater kid energy, will not be for everyone, and that’s for the best. Based on her Club Cumming show of the same name, it’s a blend of comedy and cabaret that sets itself apart from anything else on the streaming platform. It’s refreshing, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Cohen theatrically exudes confidence but delights in oversharing about the vulnerable details of her life. Over the course of the hour and the seven songs within, she discusses validation, internalized fatphobia, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and sex, all with her own ostentatious flair.
Part of that flair is Cohen’s mile-a-minute joke telling; every throwaway line is its own gag. The titles of her poems are one-liners (“Poem I wrote after you went down on me and then called me ‘dude’”), and the sheer amount of goofs she crams in means that this special is well worth a rewatch to see what you missed the first time around. In some ways the speed of The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous reminds me of 30 Rock (the sexy baby voice bit brought me back to Jenna Maroney’s invention of it), though Cohen’s humor and style is much more millennial and self-assured (even if self-deprecating) than Liz Lemon’s sad night cheese schtick.
Much like the density of the jokes, Cohen’s delivery of every line is memorably stylized—a trait which will entertain some viewers (me) or grate on the nerves of others. She rolls her R’s dramatically, occasionally slips into a British accent, and uses catchphrases the same way other people employ filler words (“Say it with me” and “J’dore” are among them). Her delivery reminds me of one of those delightfully kitschy, over-decorated houses, where even the toothbrush holders or lightswitch plates are ornate. If you can dress something up and make it more exciting than the everyday, why not go for it?
Cohen’s enthusiastic physical comedy mirrors her own more-is-more approach to stand-up. She dances, she twirls, she foot-pops, she puts in a “hundy p,” as she’d say. Her over-the-top performance is part of what makes the cabaret style translate so well to the screen, along with key directorial choices by Steven Brill (Hubie Halloween, Sandy Wexler). At some points the camera faces out toward the audience, with Cohen’s silhouette haloed in the stage lights. They feel like shots from a film about a young ingenue trying to make it in the big city, which exactly the vibe Cohen’s trying to get across (but amped up to the nth degree).
As for the songs (co-composed by Henry Koperski), they tend to go hilariously off the rails, starting out about how ridiculous marathons are (“What are you running from?”) then spiraling into an anecdote about an ill-fated hookup with a finance bro. The first song, all about Cohen’s motivation for doing stand-up (“Boys never wanted to kiss me, so now I do comedy”), and the last (an anthem about wanting to be objectified, in spite of all feminist impulses) are the best, but the others are fun rides as well. And don’t worry, Cohen will tell you exactly when the bridge is starting.
If you’re game, Cohen is ready to sweep you away in a cloud of rhinestones and pussy bump jokes. You just have to press play.
The Twist…? She’s Gorgeous is now streaming on Netflix.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.