Jacqueline Novak: Get on Your Knees 2024 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
Comedian Jacqueline Novak has a lot to say about blowjobs. A lot. 94 minutes worth, actually. For many, her new Netflix special Jacqueline Novak: Get On Your Knees will be their first exposure to the comedian — it was mine as well. Sometimes, though, the best way to get to know a person is by listening to them talk about one of their niche interests. And really, if you think about it, blowjobs aren’t even that niche.
The reason I felt compelled to not just watch Get On Your Knees, but write about it, is a quote from John Mulaney included in the initial announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the Muhammad Ali of comedy.” Few blurbs have ever intrigued me more — because first off, I had no idea what exactly he meant by that, but I also had to assume that if John Mulaney was saying it, it would make sense once I watched.
Having seen the special… yeah, it makes sense. Novak, essentially, goes fifteen rounds with the same opponent, sparring nonstop with the topic of what it really means to give a blowjob over the course of the special. Her style is both verbally and physically kinetic, as she constantly paces back and forth across the stage of the Town Hall in New York City, even rolling around on the ground sometimes; at one point, she calls out her incessant movement as deliberate, because “I like to keep things moving, a grey blur.” And director Natasha Lyonne does a brilliant job of keeping up with that pace, never letting the momentum of her star waver.
Get On Your Knees, which arrives on Netflix after a long development process on stage (beginning at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2018), dives right into its subject matter: Novak’s first run of jokes, once she arrives at the microphone, is about how she hates the walk from backstage to the microphone. Not just because of the tension involved, but because that tension reminds her of what it’s like to descend down a torso for fellatio.
And from there, we’re off into indelicate matters — while Novak promises that this is a special you can watch with an adult family member sitting next to you, your mileage may vary on that. Still, while the subject matter is mature, there is almost a gleeful innocence to Novak’s interest in the topic, a delight in being able to play with both poetic and crass terms for anatomical parts and the things we like to do with them.
The special features a stripped-down aesthetic, with Lyonne’s camera operators doing remarkable work in tracking Novak’s movement even in close-up; it’s also hard not to interpret her asexual wardrobe choice (crew neck grey T-shirt, stylishly tattered jeans, sneakers) as deliberate. The end result is a distraction-free zone, one that’s almost essential given Novak’s unrelenting performance style; any additional flourishes would pull away from her hyper-verbose style.
Her pace is so unrelenting that when she pauses to drink a little water about an hour in, the break itself gets some laughter — especially as she looks out at the audience, a furtive glance like she’s been caught. And then, she’s back into it, launching into a reflection on trying to puzzle out her awkwardness around blowjobs through the lens of literature.
Novak’s personal experiences with the art of giving head make up a significant percentage of the special, especially as she acknowledges teeth-related anxiety and interrogates the idea that she maybe uses it too often as a way of communicating to someone that she likes them. Soon enough she’s off to the next point she’s making, but the idea never dies, just enhances her further points — like an snowball rolling down a mountainside, eventually becoming an avalanche.
Essential to the humor of Get On Your Knees is that it’s about the conflict between the idealized sexual being everyone has in their head, and the actual awkwardness of the things that occur between the sheets. Broadened out, it’s fantasy versus reality, a quite universal concept even for those who have never found themselves contemplating what exactly it means, to perform an act I’m running out of polite terms to describe.
Writing about comedy is sometimes as hard as writing about music — you’re trying to capture what it means to be caught up in the flow of an experience, how all the components an artist brings together for their show coalesce into something transcendent. And that’s what Novak delivers — a marathon of words that does, eventually, culminate in her reveling in the power she feels she attains through the blowjob, literally jeté-ing around the stage like a ballerina as she delivers a mic drop for the ages.