If you're a podcast junkie like me, you've heard of Meltdown Comics before. Not only is it a comic shop whose clientele includes the likes of Robin Williams, it also houses a back-room comedy theater that hosts stand-up shows and podcast recordings like Harmontown, all while serving as a home for Nerdist offices where Chris Hardwick and his podcast co-hosts Matt Mira and (Meltdown co-host) Jonah Ray record episodes. To those of us hundreds of miles away from Sunset Boulevard, Meltdown seems like some kind of nerd mecca woven out of our fantasies and now, Comedy Central is offering us a peek inside by televising one of the theater's regular shows, The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail.
Comedy Central has hosted many stand-up comedy showcases over the years, some more fruitful than others (John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show was a recent favorite of mine) but The Meltdown is the first to really offer a new take on the format by leveraging the intimate nature of the NerdMelt Showroom and loose and friendly attitude of the show. Most stand-up showcases mirror a typical night at a comedy club but The Meltdown, in addition to showing the onstage performances, let's the camera travel into the green room to see the chummy comics hanging out, singing songs and performing magic tricks and co-host Kumail Nanjiani's wife Emily V. Gordon gleefully watching the show from the wings. Viewers are more than just audience members, but also backstage buddies.
Of course, a change in format mean nothing to comedy show if there isn't some great talent to fill out the stage and, fortunately, The Meltdown has a ridiculously impressive line-up. Not only do co-hosts Ray and Nanjiani have a fun and frisky rapport, but they also seem to be friends with every up-and-coming funny person in L.A. Comics include Maria Bamford, Doug Benson, Garfunkel & Oates, John Hodgman, Marc Maron, T.J. Miller, Nick Offerman and several more names, most of whom anyone who cares about comedy would certainly recognize. It's no wonder that so many great people would jump at the chance to be a part of this show. The green room revelry gives the air of a chill and funny house party and the comics are generally only onstage for a few minutes, allowing them to either whip out their best material or take a chance try something crazy. The quickly-paced editing, the brief sets and the 30-minute runtime lead to a potent half-hour of entertainment. In fact, the greatest fault of The Meltdown with Jonah & Kumail may be that it always leaves you wanting more.
The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail premieres Wednesday, July 23 at 11:30pm CST on Comedy Central.