Most comedians present, to differing degrees, a fictionalized version of themselves behind the mic. Their constructed persona becomes all the more muddled when the comic in question already plays a semi-autobiographical character on television. Some, like Joe Pera, keep a consistent disposition throughout. No matter what the context, even the odd interview, he presents himself as the Mister Rogers of comedy, soft-spoken and endearing. Though the situation differs, he can adapt his material to fit the scenario. Jokes that work on Joe Pera Talks with You may not translate to a stand-up setting, and vice versa. It’s the code-switching of comedy.
Ilana Glazer, unfortunately, has not received the memo. Her latest special, The Planet Is Burning, sees the Broad City actor rest heavily on her laurels. There seems to be little difference between Ilana Glazer the person and Ilana Wexler the character, which is perfectly fine. They both sing or twerk at the drop of a hat, are unabashed about their sexual preferences and radiate the energy of a kid hopped up on pixie sticks. However, the former does not change her rhythm of delivery to suit the stage, which is largely why The Planet Is Burning does not work. Devoted fans cheer her on from the audience any time she references that which made the Ilana Wexler so lovable—queerness, a hatred of toxic masculinity, the list goes on. These easy laughs, prompted whenever she punctuates a bit with an impersonation or her signature over-pronunciation, mean that she doesn’t need to take the time to craft jokes in the same way other comedians do, and so she just doesn’t. The goofs are one-offs, not even complete enough to be considered one-liners. The hour feels like a supercut of Ilana bits from Broad City, rather than a fully fleshed-out stand-up set.
Glazer thankfully finds her footing in the latter half of the special, which culminates in a comparison between the fashion of Neo-Nazis and Holocaust-era Nazis. It’s one of the few moments in the set that actually deserves the laughs it gets. Her excellent physical comedy, which is laid on so thick throughout the set that it loses some punch, pays off as she haughtily goose-steps across the stage.
The sad fact of the matter, though, is that most of the topics Glazer covers have been discussed to death by other millennial comedians, and in much funnier ways. Not even her usual schtick can make her ode to gold star lesbians fresher than past takes. At this point, it seems the best thing for Glazer would be to perform to a room full of people who have never even heard of Broad City, otherwise she seems destined to fall into “too famous to be funny” territory. And yes, that would be a shame.
Clare Martin writes about comedy, music and more for Paste.