Mae Martin: SAP Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
It’s always interesting to see a standup’s first show since becoming a superstar. The wait’s been longer than I’d have liked with Mae Martin’s Sap – because press were excluded from its live performances (one of the perks, it would appear, that fame brings), but now it’s on Netflix, this first solo set since the huge success of Martin’s queer romcom Feel Good on the same platform. Filmed in their native Canada, on a woodland stage set, it’s a hugely likable hour by a comic who’s made a specialty of emotional self-inquiry, whose standup is like open-heart surgery with a microphone in the scalpel’s place.
While it incorporates elements from Martin’s previous shows, Sap also feels like a step forward. Unlike 2017’s Dope, say, which zeroed in on Martin’s teenage years and addictive personality, there’s no particular theme here: the show radiates (and justifies) confidence in the 35-year-old’s ability to hold our attention without one. The self-reflexive tics that once characterised Martin’s standup have fallen away, replaced by composure and authority – albeit composure put to the task of depicting a turbulent inner life (“I’m full to the absolute brim with feelings”), and authority in the service of lovably self-mocking humour.
Content-wise, it feels like a debut, a re-issued autobiographical calling card. And maybe that’s strategic, as this special offers many Feel Good fans their first chance to encounter Mae-at-a-mic. Not for the first time in their work, the show dwells on the quirks of Martin’s family background, with a big-hitting opener about (as their dad tells it) how they were conceived. Then there’s a section on puberty, which transformed a confident kid into a gender-confused, internet-addled delinquent. As well as being entertaining moment to moment, this material is machine-tooled to win Martin a place in our hearts, as they position themselves at an angle to their parents’ eccentricity but also express dorky solidarity with a postman who likes to bury his mail.
That story makes Martin feel seen; elsewhere they invite us into their feelings of rage, or mortification. Martin’s therapist, we are told, trains them to keep their emotions at a critical distance – a proposal marvelled at here. But that is, in fact, part of Martin’s comic craft, how they feel for our entertainment, while anatomising those feelings with a beady intelligence. There’s nothing at all remarkable, incident-wise, about the story of a chance encounter with one of Martin’s “big exes”. It’s compelling because we’re on the emotional rollercoaster too, because the comic has invited us to invest in the ebbs and poundings of their heart.
Martin is also pleasingly un-hack, bringing perspectives to the stage that (give or take a few routines recycled from earlier shows) you’ve not heard before. I love the bit about the conversation with a recent boyfriend about baby names: what a fresh angle on becoming middle-aged, and articulated so vividly. (“Let me just wade through this graveyard of dead hypothetical children …”) A later bit, born of lockdown experience, craves our indulgence, as Martin identifies something obliquely embarrassing about adults having their own rooms. From these tenuous beginnings, the riff develops into one of the show’s richest sections, as our host distils all human interaction into a childish exchange of one snow globe for another.
In a show bookended by scenes around a campfire (featuring guest star Phil “Dr Brown” Burgers), there’s arguably a slight drop-off latterly, as Martin addresses gender and the (so-called) trans debate. Nothing wrong with their take on this, which is as humane and heartfelt as you’d expect, if not, as they acknowledge, remotely surprising. Likewise the closing “Buddhist parable”, which is more designed for uplift than laughter. But Sap remains a charming hour of standup, as Martin shakes the snow globe of their emotional life and lets their feelings dance in the light.