“NACA” – Crashing Review

NACA.jpeg

Chad White

Crashing
“NACA”
Season 2, Episode 7
HBO

You can't trust her because you guys are fucking.

Comedy is a game of melding to become what the audience wants you to become. This is especially true when you’re a young comic trying to find your voice. Chances are, twenty years from now, a comic wouldn’t be using the same five minute set they did at open mics. At least, they shouldn’t be. Ali knows this. Pete knows this. But what Pete also gets more so than Ali is that an up and coming comic trying to land even the smallest of gigs has to play ball. And Ali does not want to play ball.

“NACA” or National Association For Campus Activities is a conference where college students representing their schools search for the year’s newest road acts. Pete, Ali, Chicken Wing Man – the bearded guy who only ate chicken wings – and mid-SNL-career Melissa Villasenor journey to the conference in order to further their careers. Ali is calm and willing to take her regular material (rape jokes and all) to an easily triggerable audience. Meanwhile, Pete admits to being nervous to performing in front of an audience of 300. Checking out his competition (which includes a guy who relies on nostalgia and screaming to get his “jokes” across; this followed by a freaking standing ovation) and seeing Ali more or less fail, Pete concludes that he has to turn into the skid in order to perform the drift he needs for his career to succeed. He buys and signs a bunch of shirts with the words “Gas It Up” printed on them from a gas station and writes the perfect joke to go along with it. These shirts then become merch he can hand out as a calling card of sorts.

Pete turned the set to his favor whereas Ali used what she thought would get her booked. What she doesn’t understand is that the world is changing; she has to be as malleable as ever. The stage director said to avoid rape jokes and just be more politically correct ("If they bleep it on the Big Bang Theory, don't say it"). While Ali did get laughs, base level impressions and “remember when?” jokes proved to be the better punchline. Pete’s success (he books 6 colleges) and Ali’s struggle (she books 0 colleges) result in a big fight about selling out. The fight itself is probably the darkest this show will get. It was so well done. Jamie Lee’s Ali has a lot of valid points in regard to one’s voice.  Yet she shouldn’t be angry with Pete – mostly with the system. He wasn’t mad that she booked all of those spots in “Too Good.” He didn’t get angry when she got him a spot without his knowledge in “Artie.” There’s no concrete reason why she needs to rain on his parade this week. She’s a bitter comic without the put in years.

Did Pete really betray what it means to be a comic or did he work the system in his favor? Both are good choices but there’s no right answer. Chris Rock can say whatever he wants but that’s because he’s Chris Rock. He earned the right to say that. Pete is smart to do what it takes even if it comes at the slight cost of becoming what he’s not. And Ali is smart to not become what she deems is hack. If Pete can get by for now by referencing Harry Potter, High School Musical and driving, then he has to do what it takes until he makes it.

A talk with Melissa gets Ali back on track. She’s not entirely convinced but she comes around to it slowly. Melissa relays a story about how she bombed hard during her first NACA. At least Ali got some laughs. The end scene with Pete and Ali reconnecting in the smallest of ways paints how much they like each other – she even refers to him as her boyfriend during the fight. Some might even call them malleable.

Should you watch “NACA?”

Pete’s authentic laughs during Melissa’s display of her cavalcade of impressions warrants a watch alone.