Let the world be warned that though Netflix describes Shane Gillis’ Beautiful Dogs as a rowdy set, it is mid-range at best. Unlike a few stand-up specials that we have seen in the past, the fallacies of this stand-up comedy set were not due to a lack of effort or energy. It was because of genuinely mediocre writing. From something Shane Gillis presented in Beautiful Dogs, we got the impression that the majority of the audience were fans of a podcast that he comes on. That made us think that his writing was probably more in line with that particular format’s preferences.
We all listen to podcasts like conversations in the background while we go about our day. But when we listen to a stand-up special, it has our full attention because we want to laugh. Shane Gillis is a successful man, so we are sure that he knew the brief, but he just did not execute it the way it should have been. At one point, we felt like he understood that he could have done better, but now that he was in the ring, he still continued with honesty and sincerity, which makes us look at this kindly. While we are not fans of Beautiful Dogs, we would like to see more of his work.
Coming to the set itself, Shane Gillis positions himself as a troll right away. Before we elaborate on that, we need to point out that, despite the political jokes, it is not a political set. It is about being self-aware of people’s privileged take on politics, and Shane Gillis is clear about that. As most comedians like to say, Shane Gillis once said that he is someone who likes to push boundaries. He retracted that statement soon enough, but since it is a part of public memory, we feel the need to point out that no boundaries were pushed during Beautiful Dogs.
Reframing what has been said does not count as that, but Shane tries. This brings us to our earlier statement about him being a troll on purpose. The fact remains that comedy is meant to offend. When you are laughing, someone or something is always the subject of the humor, and most people don’t take kindly to that. There is always a different view that demands to be spoken of in certain terms. It is the art of crossing that boundary that makes the joke what it is. Shane Gillis does exactly that, and he is clear that he is doing it all to get a rise out of people. Who these people are remains debatable. When he talks about George Washington, it is absolutely clear that he is not on the side of the man, and even when he is praising him, he is evidently making fun of the privilege of the people who are able to do that. When he is talking about girls and relationships, the subject of the joke is the men the women are with. There is no doubt about the person Shane Gillis is making fun of in Beautiful Dogs, even though he doesn’t directly talk about them. It is an effective tactic because it holds the audience’s attention and keeps them on the lookout for anything that crosses the line and is dangerously offensive. It is true that the audience gives his jokes the good-faith treatment, but the alertness remains, and that is what any performer always aims for.
Yet, even in this area, there is an element of safety that Shane Gillis has opted for, which makes him your garden variety troll, like the good-natured uncle at the dinner table who is trying to keep all generations happy. Sadly, that is what makes this set so average, making us wish that, as corny as it sounds, Shane Gillis should have pushed the boundary.
We must also consider that perhaps we are being a little too harsh. There was some level of genuine involvement from the audience, and we know a few laughs did not come from the added laugh track. There is also the element of a joke being funny when heard in person, amongst others who are laughing, rather than on a screen when you are watching it alone. That is what makes us wonder whether it is just us who find the authenticity of it all going down the moment we detect the laugh track. For example, we have also heard it in Mark Normandy’s Soup to Nuts special and in Kevin Hart’s Reality Check. But since their material was also funny, we found that the laugh track just enhanced its effect instead of creating one that wasn’t there. However, after watching Shane Gillis’s Beautiful Dogs, we are wondering how differently we would have perceived those two comedians’ sets without this. We would have still believed that they told fun jokes, but perhaps we would have been left wanting for a bit more. In a time when it is more important to churn out content than to take the time to make it good, we are willing to accept that standard. But anything less than that sends us down a depressive hole into the doomed state of affairs of quality content.
Another thing that did not work for Shane Gillis’ Beautiful Dogs is his lack of insight. Not many stand-up specials make one laugh out loud when watched alone, but it is a win if there is a huge smile on the face because they have heard something interesting that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Shane Gillis offered no such thing. We can usually tell within the first few minutes whether we are going to like, love, or simply tolerate a comedy special. The best comedians know how to catch your attention right away and then pull you into the ebb and flow of the set. Therefore, when the first ten to fifteen minutes of Beautiful Dogs proved to be dull, our expectations immediately plummeted. We would have liked to laugh at least as much as half of what Shane Gillis did on stage, but that wasn’t to be. We would consider this stand-up set to be a skip and would instead recommend that you check out his other works.