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The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives (1991)

Funny, insightful, stand-up comedy by 2 women = Kathy & Mo. Skits on angels & the different roles men & women should play in the beginning of time - women being the sex to bear children & ... See full summary »

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Funny, insightful, stand-up comedy by 2 women = Kathy & Mo. Skits on angels & the different roles men & women should play in the beginning of time - women being the sex to bear children & how painful the process will be. Just a must see by 2 funny women. Written by Kathsthe1 Kathy

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1991 (France)  »

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Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney had been performing "The Kathy and Mo Show" on stage for six years when HBO filmed it in San Francisco. See more »

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Unearthed time capsule - dated and dateless
20 January 2012 | by See all my reviews

I first saw this special 20 years ago, when it was a staple of Comedy Central in the days long preceding Ben Stein, jiggle girls, or Jon Stewart and friends. This, Whose Line Is It Anyway? (UK please) and Rita Rudner were all I needed. In no time at all, both Mo and Kathy moved into parallel careers - Kathy in major films and television, Mo with her own short-lived Comedy Central talk show, and many TV appearances, including a popular recurring role on Ab Fab (also brought to us Americans by Comedy Central).

My strongest memory of this special, a memory which has stayed with me for a long time, was Kathy, as an old Jewish lady, speaking of the moment when she learned her nephew was gay. This was a very moving and important little nugget of melancholy in a comedy special, and is a fine moment for Kathy Najimy.

Through the years, I've wondered if I would ever see this again, finally settling on a long Netflix wait. Would it hold up? Fortunately, my positive memories of this special, and these ladies, aren't just nostalgia.

Watching this again, in full, I'm reminded of why Kathy and Mo may have found their biggest success as solo acts. They clash as much as they harmonize when they are sharing a scene. You keep waiting to go back to when they're separated, when one is in the spotlight.

From the start, as we're treated to a cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", you get neon titles, and nice little sidewalk chalk-style drawings introducing each segment, you're blasted right back to the very mixed-up world of the late 80's/early 90's. So much has changed...or has it? The first sketches are probably the weakest - a self-indulgent, far too "cute" bit where Kathy and Mo are angels creating the planet. The next is an overlong sequence with Mo and Kathy as a young couple who go into a gay Denny's, a sketch which has little purpose beyond suggesting Mo is better at playing a man than Kathy is at playing a woman, and that it's nice to see hair-flipping Kathy oppose discrimination against invisible gays in an invisible gay Denny's (although this was apparently based on a real life incident).

After the sketch about men having periods, we get to Mo and Kathy as little old Jewish ladies who wander into a women's studies group and alternately alienate and charm. Mo seems to settle on a Jerry Lewis impression, and this is a fairly overextended section which improves when Kathy is on her own and gets serious.

Kathy's character speaks of her beloved nephew and his roommate. When she asks him when he's going to get married, he tells her he can't. Kathy movingly portrays an aunt learning her nephew is gay, that he has told no one in the family but her, his favorite aunt, and he's scared she will hate him. She initially struggles with her regrets for him, but quickly accepts him, and the roommate they both adore.

A review for a fairly recent revival of Parallel Lives said that this section was dated, and people can't relate to coming out stories in today's world. This was actually written in 1980, but I would say it is mostly still pertinent in 2012. While a gay man being unable to marry his partner is a dated concept, the fear of coming out and family rejection or rejection from the outside world will never be an old hate issue. Kathy Najimy said she heard from people who used this scene to come out to loved ones. This holds up extremely well and I can see why this made a difference to so many who watched. It makes me wish Kathy had done more dramatic acting.

With Kathy's solo out of the way, we get the funny and appropriately timed "womyn" sketch. Then Mo gets her own chance to shine, in a wonderful piece of silent, physical comedy, showing a woman who has to get ready in the morning. Priceless, and according to the DVD commentary, one of their most popular routines.

Next up is Kathy and Mo as two women going to confession. This is probably the high point of their work as a duo, as they start and finish each other's sentences, building up to a crescendo. Smack dab in the middle of this is a very brave scene where Kathy talks about feeling regret over an abortion even if you aren't supposed to feel regret. This sequence is probably more timely than ever, and is beautifully acted.

The penultimate sketch is two barflies, a cowboy (Kathy) and a woman looking for some meaning in life (Mo), and his persistent marriage proposals. Mo seems to be channeling the various Southern waitresses from "Alice." Again this seems to go on a little too long, but has a strong, bittersweet last moment, capturing the everyday pathetic nature of life.

This ends with another angel sketch, better, and fortunately, shorter, than the first.

Rarely have I seen a comedy special which so accurately reflects the time it was written as well as the present day. Now that it's finally available on DVD I hope you get to see it.


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