Conner O’Malley’s Stand Up Solutions Is a Feverish Masterpiece

Comedy Reviews conner o'malley
Conner O’Malley’s Stand Up Solutions Is a Feverish Masterpiece

“Watched 30 minutes and now I’m scared,” my friend texted me yesterday. Naturally, he was talking about Conner O’Malley’s new special Stand Up Solutions

Viewers of I Think You Should Leave and Joe Pera Talks With You get glimpses of O’Malley’s intensity and comedic voice on both shows. He’s a horny man honking incessantly at the behest of a bumper sticker in the former, or a co-worker insistently sharing his strange YouTube videos. In Joe Pera’s beloved Adult Swim comedy, O’Malley plays the troubled local mechanic Mike Melsky, who follows Joe Rogan’s advice and upsets his family with his new habits, like consuming an entire rotisserie chicken in the shower. However, these appearances are mere trickles of water when compared to the overpowering firehose blast of O’Malley’s own comedy. His videos often feature him sporting a formidable, toothy grin as he wreaks havoc at Universal Studios’ Waterworld show or on the subway, intercut with unnerving and hilarious CGI. Words fall short when trying to describe O’Malley’s work; it simply must be experienced.

For Stand Up Solutions, O’Malley dons a blue polo and khakis as he embodies Richard Eagleton, a father and husband who’s created the first-ever AI-powered comedian, KENN (Kinetic Emotional Neural Network). Richard talks us through his investment presentation for Stand Up Solutions with the enthusiasm of a used car salesman, seeming utterly normal until suddenly… he isn’t. At its extremes, O’Malley’s cadence bounces from crazed TED Talk presenter to an alien trying desperately to seem human.

During his Powerpoint, Richard repeatedly assures us “Let’s not get political!”—even though in reality O’Malley’s special is packed with social and political commentary. On the surface, it’s all so puerile and silly and chaotic that there doesn’t seem to be a message of sorts. You’re distracted by the photos of bowel movements or Richard hypnotically tracing his neighbor’s leg with a laser pointer, but that’s just how O’Malley’s fucked-up genius works. 

Richard is like Mike Melsky to the nth degree, embracing the hypermasculine rhetoric of the Joe Rogans and Jordan Petersons of the world in the hopes that it’ll bring him the financial and personal fulfillment he’s lacking. These far-right podcasters and extremist figureheads appeal to guys like Richard, whose wives may have left them for the stand-up comedian that choked them out on stage (okay, maybe not something so dramatic) or who’ve had to refinance their homes multiple times. The type of guy so invested in the fruitless cycle of late capitalism that they define themselves as a “proud RAV4 owner.” And although side-splittingly funny, O’Malley reveals through Richard the sad hubris underneath the high-protein facade.

Then there’s the AI of it all. Artists of all sorts have rightfully raised concerns about AI stealing their work and using it to then steal their jobs. As the set proves, comics shouldn’t worry about KENN replacing them, but when KENN starts to question his own existence (“No one asked for me to be alive.”), he proposes a different purpose for himself: operating prison cafeterias. KENN’s new objective is an ominous reminder that AI is already being used to continue the subjugation of oppressed populations.

All of this may make it sound like Stand Up Solutions is a dense slog, but that can’t be further away from the truth. This special is a fever dream, frantically reflecting our own overwhelming, tumultuous present while still keeping us in stitches. Crude yet cutting, O’Malley is the comedic voice of a generation.

Stand Up Solutions is streaming for free on YouTube.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.

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