In 10 Words or Less
Daily Show star stands up and out
Loves: Stand-up comedy, The Daily Show
Likes: Wyatt Cenac, Medieval Times
Hates: Michael Jordan's mustache
Based on this stand-up special, fans of The Daily Show will soon have the hipster-brand opportunity to say they liked Wyatt Cenac back when he wasn't so popular. After building an impressive run as the show's best non-British correspondent, Cenac has taken the next step toward tackling the world of stand-up as part of the next wave (which I imagine also includes Don Glover, Bo Burnham and a woman from Portland that we haven't yet met.) This stand-up special, shot in the small town of New York City, shows Cenac to be as polished a performer on-stage as he is on-screen, only with a few more dick jokes.
After an amusing intro from fellow Daily Show correspondent John Hogdman, Cenac dives right in to give the audience an idea of what to expect from him, and that's an act that blends a geeky point of view with a sharp intellect and a relaxed delivery, as well as a willingness to both be silly and venture into the darker realms, but with the ability to keep such matters light and funny. His bits about racism verge on brilliant, whether he's talking about Smurfs and the N-word or just his observations about being black. There's a touch of young Bill Cosby to his presentation (and not just because he does a great imitation of the man's pudding pop nuttiness.)
Though his act is loaded with memorable bits, including his ruminations on Rosa Parks sitting in first class without a ticket, his thoughts on class reunions and his ideas about Jews co-opting ethnic slurs, the one place Cenac could use some work is on his flow. There's a lack of rhythm that, combined with his somewhat low-energy delivery, prevents the laughs from building momentum. There's plenty of them to be certain, but they are a bit more rat-a-tat than a steady stream. Part of it may be the stories Cenac threads though his act, which are a bit more winding than your average stand-up joke, but then, they are far funnier than your average stand-up joke.
As noted before, there's a lot of good stuff in this special, but the highlights are particularly enjoyable, starting with his extended segment about television, including how great TV is, and his lack of patience for those who "hate" TV to the point where they don't even own one. Playing off the camera on the stage, he's so natural and funny that you'd think this was his 10th stand-up special, not his first. His stories about Medieval Times and PETA are similarly hilarious, as is his origin of the Tea Party. The Tea Party segment is actually the smoothest of his whole set, as he slides in and out of jokes while telling one very funny through story. More of this, and Cenac will easily take his spot at the head of the comedy kids table.
This 70-minute special arrives on one DVD, in a standard keepcase. The disc features a static, anamorphic-widescreen main menu, with options to watch the special, select chapters, check out extras, and adjust the set-up. Audio options include English 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 tracks. There are no subtitles, but closed captioning is included.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is smooth and clean, with a nice level of fine detail, though some of the camera angles could be a bit sharper. The color is bright and appropriate and there are no issues with dirt or compression artifacts.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack offers the kind of tight audio presentation you want from a stand-up act, putting Cenac in the center channel, while the audience gets the surround speakers (along with some echo from Cenac's voice. The feeling is wonderful, as you get to be right in the middle of the crowd, enjoying some distortion-free comedy.
Just one relatively short extra here, but it's an enjoyable one, as a shortened version of Cenac's Medieval Times bit gets the animated treatment. There's no info as to who is behind this short, but whoever it was, they did a nice job of adding a layer of visual comedy on top of Cenac's already funny concept.
The Bottom Line
For fans of Cenac's always-funny appearances as a Daily Show correspondent, this stand-up set does not disappoint, as he demonstrates the same sharp wit and laid-back delivery that makes him such a favorite, even when stripped from the timeliness of his usual material and focusing on traditional stand-up staples like race and relationships. Add Cenac's name to the list of rising stand-up acts ready to take over the mic. This disc is a great first entry for him, with very good quality and a fun extra to boot, so check him out now before he's too big to enjoy unironically.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.