Netflix Review: 'The Hall'

Ben Miles

If you enjoy comedy, comedians and the occasional smutty word, vulgar references and sexual allusions, “The Hall” may tickle your funny bone and titillate, if not challenge, your taste.

“The Hall” is included in the Netflix festival “Netflix is a Joke,” wherein four of the “greatest” comedians of all time are inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame.

And though the quartet of comics honored are long gone and dead, and do not include such luminaries as Lenny Bruce, John Belushi or Gilda Radner or dare we even mention Bob Hope, Red Skelton or Flip Wilson – the four that are honored are inarguably ground-breaking comedic artists. They are George Carlin, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor.

The recording of “The Hall,” directed by Marty Callner, took place in May, 2022, with Pete Davidson presiding briefly as the unlikeliest of emcees, and was filmed in Hollywood.

The first tribute was given by the brave-hearted comic and former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, who honored George Carlin, showing clips from various periods in Carlin’s long and courageous comedy career, including his classic routine, “7 Words You Can’t Say On TV.” Stewart made it clear that comedy and its boundaries were forever altered by Carlin’s comedic wordplay and daring displays of his perspectives on religion, profanity and social interactions generally.

Funny man John Mulaney gives homage to Academy Award-winner, Robin Williams, whose spontaneity and quick wit made him a comic who created a comedy category all his own, blending improvisation and immediacy into an uproarious form of comedic aesthetics and acting originality.

Next, Mulaney introduces Chelsea Handler, who reminds us that Joan Rivers was a point person for women in comedy. Though, like Handler, Rivers was a good looking lady, she made herself out to be a homely woman.

Such self effacing comedy not only seemed hilarious to audiences, it was an approach that took Rivers to the top of the comedic billboard. She often made “King of Late Night,” Johnny Carson laugh so intensely that he could barely stop tipping over in his hosting chair.

Eventually Rivers was anointed Carson’s one and only late night substitute host. When Rivers was offered her own late night gig on the Fox Network and accepted, Carson would never again speak to Rivers, whom he felt had betrayed him.

Finally, we experience Dave Chappelle honoring Richard Pryor, referring to Pryor as”the greatest stand-up comedian that ever lived.” Chappelle goes on to remark, or rebuke “all you comedians out there who complain that you can’t say anything nowadays, I would suggest that perhaps you have nothing to say.” Chappelle continues: “Because there’s a very profound example of a person (Pryor) who said anything and everything that he wanted to say outside of context.”

Also, a memorial segment of sorts is embedded in “The Hall.” It’s spearheaded by insult comic and “Roastmaster” Jeff Ross angling to put the fun in a funerial tribute to the late comedians Louie Anderson, Gilbert Gotfried, Norm Macdonald and Bob Saget. This quartet of comics may never be immortalized in “The Hall,” but each did earn their fair share of guffaws under the comedy spotlight.

Is comedy an art form? Are comics worthy of such accolades and esteem? The 70 minute tribute to this quartet of comics may answer those questions for you. Ultimately you, the audience member, are the judge of humor and what’s funny. Admittedly, not every comic is funny to everyone. But the Netflix presentation of The Hall (as in Hall of Fame) gives us many and varied comedic perspectives to choose from. To laugh or not to laugh is not only the question, it is the dilemma of our politically correct era.

What: “The Hall,” currently streaming on Netflix

When: Anytime for Netflix subscribers

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