Jimmy O. Yang’s Guess How Much? Is an Undercooked Effort

Comedy Reviews Jimmy O. Yang
Jimmy O. Yang’s Guess How Much? Is an Undercooked Effort

Comedian and actor Jimmy O. Yang starts off his new Amazon comedy special Guess How Much? almost exactly like his 2020 hour Good Deal, praising the increase in Asian representation in American media—though this time around, he shouts out BTS as opposed to his previous choices Jeremy Lin and Crazy Rich Asians (which Yang himself starred in). It’s a moment that accurately encapsulates the rest of Yang’s latest special, which feels like a recycling of his old material and makes one wish he’d waited a little longer to let his comedic ideas germinate. 

Of course, some things have changed for Yang between Good Deal and Guess How Much?; there’s the inevitable COVID talk, and instead of focusing on Tinder misadventures or the pressure of repping other Chinese men in bed he talks about his new venture capitalist girlfriend. But even these moments, which could introduce some novelty, feel incredibly run-of-the-mill. Yang’s pandemic-related anecdotes sound like something you’ve heard in a special already, and probably done in a more exciting way. Likewise, his talk about dating skews toward the reductive “women do this, men do that” dichotomy, without any awareness of just how old-fashioned and boring this approach is.

And sure, conventional can work in a special, but you have to introduce some element of inventiveness (think Danny Jolles’ Six Parts, which took place in half a dozen different venues while the material itself was fairly straightforward) or heart to make it stand out from the crowd. Guess How Much? definitely lacks the former, and while it has moments of the latter (more on that further down), it’s not enough to keep you enraptured. 

That said, Yang has some great physical comedy throughout the special. One particularly funny bit involves him doing an impression of an older man in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, casually swearing in Cantonese as he cooks and smokes a cigarette. As a whole, Yang’s cadence on stage is great. He possesses excellent comedic timing and a casual, goofy stage presence.

His talent is exactly what makes Guess How Much? feel like an hour of wasted potential. The set is competent, but Yang doesn’t seem to put in much effort to push his comedy to the next level. If anything, it seems like he put out a special just for the sake of it. Yang’s complacency is holding him back.

The special’s high points come when he talks about his parents or his friends or his girlfriend’s particular idiosyncrasies—these moments are when we finally get some of that heart that grabs your attention. Even some of these bits are sour, though (especially when he does a racist accent in an impression of one of his friends).

If you’ve seen Good Deal, then Yang’s new special will feel like a slightly tedious though occasionally funny repeat. It’s a shame that Guess How Much? ends up so undercooked and unsatisfactory.

Guess How Much? is streaming on Amazon.

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

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