A straightforward hour of deliberately escapist comedy, On the Rocks is a welcome treat as long as you don’t think about it too much.
Brian Regan: On the Rocks was released on Netflix February 23, 2021.
Surprisingly given the matter of a global pandemic, there hasn’t seemed to be a shortage of live comedy – at least, not if Netflix’s output is anything to go by. The second outing of Tiffany Haddish’s They Ready aired recently, and virtually every act made reference to Covid-19, so it’s a wonder that Brian Regan’s new Netflix special On the Rocks, filmed in October 2020 in front of a packed mask-wearing audience, doesn’t bother. That’s the appeal of the set, really. It isn’t a treatise on current events, but a deliberately old-fashioned collection of jokes, face-pulling, and call-backs. It’s comedy as escapism, not commentary. And that’s fine. Welcome, even, given the eagerness of celebrity culture’s parrots to echo the latest new word they’ve learned. Regan is a good, solid, dependable comedian who has such a lack of smug know-it-all attitude that it’s a wonder he isn’t as popular with general audiences as he seems to be with devout comedy fans and other comedians.
After seeing Kevin Hart devote a long bit of his recent home-set special to contracting Covid, Regan simply using it as an excuse for his grey hair is refreshing. He’s good at that, using one thing to comment on another, without lingering too long on either. Getting older – and thus closer to death – segues into a bit about veterinary specialists. An OCD diagnosis becomes a coping mechanism and an extended bit about bookshelves. It’s comfortably light fare that capably swerves any suggestions of real insight, at least into anything other than Regan’s own thought processes. That’s enough for him, and it turns out to be enough for us.
Regan caught Covid a few months after filming On the Rocks, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given how he was carrying on in the months spent preparing for it, both of which are details you’re best off forgetting for at least the duration of this hour. The question of whether or not you should is yours to answer, I suppose, and there will doubtlessly be those who are outright appalled at any of this is being allowed to happen in flagrant defiance of a very real, very dangerous, and still on-going global threat. But such is the divisive nature of everything these days, and such is the value of escapism. Brian Regan: On the Rocks is, in its purest form, about forgetting the real world, if only temporarily, but at least it doesn’t tell those who can’t to lighten up.