Comedian Dan Licata’s Special Is Not Just For the Boys

Comedy Reviews Dan Licata
Comedian Dan Licata’s Special Is Not Just For the Boys

My first introduction to Dan Licata was through his appearance as a radio DJ on Joe Pera Talks With You in arguably the series’ best episode, “Joe Pera Reads You the Church Announcements” (or, as I think of it, “The ‘Baba O’Riley’ Episode”). Licata’s screen time is fleeting but memorable, as he explains the song’s nonsensical title to an excited Pera. Despite also writing on the show, Licata’s own comedy is starkly different from Pera’s, particularly in terms of pace. There are few pregnant pauses in Licata’s debut special For the Boys, with the former Saturday Night Live writer skewing closer to the frenetic energy of frequent collaborator Conner O’Malley as he shares his shrugging, goofball perspective.

For the Boys was filmed in front of an auditorium of 15-year-old male students at Licata’s alma mater, Amherst Central High School in Buffalo, New York. We’ll get more into the choice of setting and audience later, but suffice it to say that they’re both excellent, particularly because Licata’s set leans heavily into a crassness most commonly associated with teenage boys. Sophomoric humor is beautiful in its simplicity. I don’t want to over-intellectualize it too much; we all know that a good gross joke is a joy to behold. 

Licata performs as a heightened, blustering version of himself, his persona coming across like a stoner friend of AJ Soprano’s who never quite grew up. Sprinkled with malapropisms and his unofficial catchphrase “You know I had to do it to ‘em,” Licata’s hour is made up of once-off stories that are all hyperbole and unbridled vulgarity. The high-achieving, ambitious high school students further highlight Licata’s own waywardness. He likens himself to Jackass’ Bam Margera at one point, and doesn’t shy away from dipping into the sadder side of a Margera-type figure. He’s self-deprecating, but not dunking on this kind of dude, either; there’s an inherent empathy that keeps anything from feeling mean-spirited.

For the Boys stands apart from other specials not just because of Licata’s hilarious routine, but because of the decision to film at Amherst and director/editor Danny Scharar’s keen artistic choices. The hour’s unabashed crudeness is inspired by Jackass, as made clear both through Licata’s actual set and Scharar’s use of lo-fi video footage (plus cuts to home movies of Licata as a teen). There’s been a renewed interest in and appreciation for Jackass in recent years, especially in the wake of Jackass Forever’s release. Licata’s comedy is not just in conversation with the famed prank/stunt series, but was actually directly shaped by it during his years at Amherst—a reveal in the special that I will not spoil in its entirety here. Besides the Jackass homages and peeks into Licata’s own adolescence, the hour is rife with excellent visual jokes aided by Scharar’s skillful editing and the high school students’ participation.

Much like Jackass, Licata’s comedy is oddly wholesome because rather than in spite of its all-out grossness. This is some funny shit.

For the Boys 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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