Review: Please Don’t Destroy brings awkward, off-color comedy to SU

Review: Please Don't Destroy misses the mark

Two-thirds of the "Saturday Night Live" writers performed this weekend in part of Night of Comedy
Published: September 26, 2022
Please Don't Destroy
Jamie Linn Watson, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy perform rejected "SNL" skits at Night of Comedy on Saturday.

When two-thirds of comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy had to redo the introduction to their live show, which involved running around the auditorium denouncing Syracuse’s rival teams, it set the tone for the entire set—awkward, off-color humor that descends into complete chaos.

It’s what they’ve become known for in their viral digital Saturday Night Live shorts. But unlike their skits, which average about three minutes each, their show left some jokes going on too long with repeated, tedious punchlines.

Please Don’t Destroy, the alias of John Higgins, Martin Herlihy and Ben Marshall, headlined Syracuse University’s Night of Comedy this Saturday. Marshall was absent due to an “unknown illness” that Higgins and Herlihy unconvincingly said wasn’t COVID-19. Opening acts and friends of the trio, Chloe Troast and Jamie Linn Watson, filled in.

It’s fair to question what a group known for their success on digital platforms might perform in front of a live audience. In line with Please Don’t Destroy’s self-deprecating humor, seen in skits like “Three Sad Virgins,” they spent the night reenacting the sketches that SNL hosts rejected. Like a scene in which Herlihy plays a substitute teacher who tries to convince his student that he is cool by trying to get them to watch porn.

“I guess I just got carried away trying to be sex positive,” Herlihy’s character said.

Like half of the night’s sketches, it ended with a joke about murder. It was axed by that week’s SNL host, Willem Dafoe. Who, according to Herlihy and Higgins, did not like them.

While not all jokes were winners the night had moments that felt true to what Please Don’t Destroy is known and loved for. A coffee shop skit features Higgins and Troast playing two former friends having a serious conversation while a barista (Herlihy) desperately tries to give someone named Deeb Gubbler their order. The barista is having a tough day because his best friend, who sounds suspiciously like the queen of England, just died.

A big highlight of the show was the audience participation. A Syracuse freshman really showed her acting chops in a scene where she played a Dust Bowl-era daughter of an abusive father with a high-pitched voice and an obsession with garlic aioli. (Surprise, it ends with someone being shot.)

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Jamie Linn Watson engages with the SU crowd during her opening comedy act on Saturday.

During Watson’s opening set, she asked for the help of a “hot guy, preferably over the age of 18” to reenact the time she almost fell into the subway gap. The romantic comedy style “short play” featured her and a Syracuse student, who swore he’d never taken an acting class, riding the subway to the most romantic place on earth: Upstate New York. Her sense of humor, which she describes as being for the girlies and the gays, help to balance out the frat boy-esque humor seen it the rest of the show.

Some bits started off strong, like a scene in which Herlihy is meeting his girlfriend’s Irish mother. Desperate to make a good impression, he compulsively (and poorly) makes fun of her accent.

“I must have gotten so nervous, I blacked out or something,” Herlihy said.

True to the trio’s nature, mayhem ensues with slapstick stage fighting. While the skit should have ended there, it instead became a strange conversation between Herlihy and his girlfriend’s father, played by Higgins, about ejaculation.

At risk of sounding like a prude, this was not the only time during the night that the group relied a bit too much on overt sex humor to carry the laughs. Another skit featured a sleepover in which classmates gossip over what teachers they find attractive. Higgins says that he has a thing for the lunch lady and likes to imagine her puking food–that she made–on him. In response to his friend’s disturbed attitudes, Higgins pretends he was sleeping the whole time.

“Hey mom, they’re kink shaming me,” he said on a pretend phone call.

There is no denying that Please Don’t Destroy is funny. There’s a reason their skits have millions of views. But their live show lacked the refinement of their pre-recorded comedy. The performance seemed thrown together and low on energy, which Higgins even acknowledged during the short Q&A portion.

It could have just been an off-night or the other members of Please Don’t Destroy are coming down with Marshall’s unknown illness. Or, maybe they should just stick to what they do best— digital content.

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In the second opening act, Chloe Troast played two different characters: a feminism professor and a jock auditioning for a school play.

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CitrusTV entertainment director Anastasia Frazier (left) moderates a Q&A with John Higgins and Martin Herlihy.