Sarah Cooper is in a tough spot. A great spot! But a tough spot. And from that spot, working quickly to make her special Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine, she has managed to create one of the most effective pieces of the year when it comes to representing what this year has felt like.
Cooper has been working in comedy for a long time, but in 2020, with everyone more isolated than usual and bathed in election anxiety, her TikTok lip syncs of President Donald Trump made her famous. Suddenly full of the kind of career heat that can either last or … not, she got the opportunity to make a special for Netflix, and now—a week before her most famous target either is or is not reelected—it’s here. And the reason she’s in a tough spot is that this is not the path of a lower-profile stand-up who finally gets to put a complete act on a streaming service with a giant audience. But it’s also not the path of a big star who’s been famous for years who can come to Netflix and play the hits, or moderate remixes of the hits.
Sarah Cooper has to decide whether to play the hit. That’s not because the Trump lip sync stuff is all she can do that’s good, or all she can do that’s funny. It’s simply because a lot of viewers will come to this special with a specific point of reference. What, it’s been easy to wonder, would a Sarah Cooper Netflix special even look like?
The answer? Engrossingly, impressively weird.
The first hint about the creative direction is … literally the direction: Cooper’s special was directed by Natasha Lyonne, the star and one of the creators of the offbeat, emotionally rich series Russian Doll. Lyonne’s involvement shores up the Cooper special in being one of the best things comedy specials often aren’t: genuinely off the wall. Not smugly vulgar or “ooh, how daring, you can’t do that on television,” just conceptually, tonally strange, designed to speak to a year that has often been the same.