Heather McMahan found herself an absolutely yes. The comedian, who also hosts the popular Absolutely Not podcast on the Dear Media network, will debut her first stand-up special on Netflix Oct. 17. Titled Son I Never Had, the hourlong show is based on the material from her facetiously-titled The Farewell Tour, which ran 94 dates throughout North America in 2021 and 2022.
McMahan draws from her own personal life — both hardships, like the grief of losing her father days after he received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and lighter fare like an ill-advised childhood bowl cut — to find the humor in widely universal themes like grief and body image. The special offers an introductory version of her life story to new audiences while also dropping Easter eggs for her longtime fans and listeners. “I want to paint a picture of what baby Heather looked like, okay?” starts one joke. “I’d always wear my dad’s hand-me-down golf shirt tucked into the front. I’d wear a sensible velcro sandal in case I had to, like, take off after my mom at Costco. I really solidified the look when I went to Great Clips one summer and saw my stylist Trish, and just go ‘Trish, I want you to get out the buzzers and hit the nape of my neck.”
After studying performing arts at the University of Mississippi, McMahan studied at UCB Los Angeles and spent years polishing her stand-up in both LA and New York. She launched her podcast in 2019, and her specific brand of comedic complaints upheld by an underlying optimism became a lifeline to listeners during the early days of lockdown (she saw her followers on Instagram, where she documented her day and performed sketches like a beloved Ina Garten impression, shoot up during the pandemic). By the time she set her first tour, she was playing theaters in major cities far larger than the typical debut venue.
McMahan also spent several years developing a pilot based on her own life for Peacock, before the streamer eventually passed (she’s now in a separate development deal for NBC); it was this painful experience that inspired the comedian to self-tape and produce her own special under her Absolutely Not Productions banner before shopping it around. She wrote the show herself and tapped her close friend and creative partner Jen Zaborowski to direct; Maggie Haskins and Chris Ketner also executive produce. McMahan’s podcast intro proclaims, “We’re doing the most and the least at the same damn time,” a catch phrase that has become something of a North Star for her particular brand of comedy, but it’s clear she’s just doing the most.