Michael Bolton has never been funnier. Following a hugely popular appearance in The Lonely Island’s “Jack Sparrow,” the singer of amorous rock ballads that became an inescapable part of the everyday soundtrack in the late ’80s and ’90s has reinvented his public image with a clever comedic twist cooked up by members Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. He’s a boastful, self-assured version of the crooner whose “big, sexy hook” turned the comedy music trio’s Turtleneck & Chain record into a review of his favorite films. Six years and a cameo in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping later, Bolton’s comic side is alive and well in a new Valentine’s Day special on Netflix.
Titled Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special, the 54-minute program bills itself as promotion for the holiday. But it’s also tied to Christmas, as the main thrust of the plot involves Santa Claus (Jimmy Graham) begging Bolton to help him find 75,000 new babies to receive all the extra gifts his elves have made. So he headlines a telethon staffed by Brooke Shields, Janeane Garofalo, Sinbad and countless others who keep track of all the world’s conceptions. Yes, conceptions. “We need your help to meet our goal of 75,000 new babies by the end of the show,” the singer pleads, “or Christmas will be ruined.”
Bolton doesn’t hold back playing a caricature of himself, and one that isn’t kind to the real-life Bolton. His performance here doesn’t come with a free get-out-of-jail-because-I’m-just-an-actor card. As in”Jack Sparrow” and Popstar, if Bolton faltered even once, the whole gimmick would never work. Luckily, the combined powers of The Lonely Island and Comedy Bang! Bang! make it work.
Everyone involved in Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special is in on the joke, obviously. Bolton isn’t really trying to encourage viewers to copulate, Bob Saget and Louie Anderson aren’t waiting by the phone to take your calls, and Kenny G doesn’t look like Samberg wearing a bad wig and trying to mime playing a saxophone. But Bolton is more enthusiastically in on the joke than anyone. (He even recorded several voice mails for the working number, 1-844-486-7869, splashed across the screen.)
Bolton’s dedication is especially impressive since he’s more often than not the butt of the joke. The 63-year-old performer never wavers in his commitment, which is all the more impressive considering how he once felt about how O’Brien and others took shots at his career during the ’90s. Following his 1991 Grammy win for “When A Man Loves A Woman,” Bolton famously trashed his critics as “monkeys on typewriters.” However, a decade later he couldn’t help but giggle about O’Brien’s jabs during an interview with the Baltimore Sun, saying “When you think about it, who are they going to go after? They can’t go after unknowns.”
Another decade later, Bolton is still singing and laughing at his own expense, though in the most positive way possible. And if his new Valentine’s Day/Christmas special is any indication, his burgeoning comedy career won’t be drying up anytime soon — especially if Conner Friel (Samberg) and The Style Boyz of Popstar fame need him to belt out another big, sexy hook.
Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.