HBO’s Pause with Sam Jay turns the stuffy late-night talk show into a party
There’s a high quality that some long-running chat podcasts have that may really feel like a brick wall for brand new listeners. Present relationships, in-jokes, and context that buddies and co-hosts have are further boundaries to feeling such as you’re a a part of the dialog. The informal hangout and chat format is tantalizing for its naturalism, however it additionally comes with parasocial relationships as baggage. Which makes HBO’s new late-night undertaking, Pause with Sam Jay, so intriguing. It has hangout podcasts in its DNA, however it’s additionally out to reinvent a decades-old late-night format.
Pause is co-created by Sam Jay, slapstick comedian and Saturday Night time Stay author, and Prentice Penny, showrunner and government producer of Insecure. It feels contemporary for some apparent causes. Jay is a Black queer lady in a discipline stuffed with straight white males. However apart from the host, the format additionally feels distinctive. The place late night time is dominated by monologues, desks, interviews, and panels, Pause is kind of actually a party. Jay invitations over her real-life buddies and fellow comedians, they usually shoot the shit, filmed by two digicam operators, whereas Jay guides the dialog towards the episode’s matter.
For the episode I watched, that topic was promoting out to white tradition, or “cooning.” Jay and her company suppose larger than that, too, referring to the types of restrictions, labels, and classifications society can place on individuals who simply need to be. The party environment doesn’t all the time assist talk these concepts. Like a actual kickback or home party, individuals shout over one another, concepts get misplaced in the combine, and jokes that play in the room simply don’t translate with out the context and historical past. However when it does work — or when Jay’s two white company are gamely dunked on — it appears like one thing that’s by no means been out there from this sort of show earlier than.
This will make the diversions Jay and Penny take barely irritating. To help the pure dialogue at the party, Pause weaves in cutaways. There’s nothing essentially unsuitable or unfunny about interviews, sketches, or man-on-the-street segments. However they’ve a very totally different vibe from a party, and the hangout environment is what makes Jay’s undertaking appear to be a shot in the arm whenever you’re on its wavelength.
And it ought to! If Conan O’Brien switching up his format, capturing for a shorter size, and actually getting out from behind his desk may be a main milestone in 2019, then clearly, late-night tv wants one thing. In recent times, networks have turned to YouTube for inspiration (and further advert gross sales). Segments on reveals are ceaselessly designed to be clippable and able to be shared on-line, and networks like NBC have poached profitable YouTube expertise like Lilly Singh to supply relevancy and viewers instincts to community late night time. Jay and Penny are clearly working the downside from a totally different angle — and from behind an HBO subscription — however the intuition that the outdated methods can’t be the solely means is the similar.
One episode just isn’t a lot to go on, however like the begin of a nice night time with buddies, there’s a ton of potential vitality in Pause (regardless of what the title would possibly recommend). There’s loads of avenues the show might go down, however the most promising is enjoying with the party format and constructing out Jay’s company as sources of humor and perception all their very own. For now, although, it’s enjoyable in its personal means. Watching individuals drink, joke, and play pool simply feels extra participating than an interview behind a desk — particularly throughout a pandemic.
Pause with Sam Jay premieres on HBO on Could twenty first at 9PM ET and also will stream on HBO Max.
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