Let's not beat around the bush here: The new album from Lavell Crawford, Can A Brother Get Some Love?, had me laughing out loud. A lot. Non-stop. From start to finish. I laughed and laughed and laughed and then I laughed some more.
This is one of those albums that actually leaves you feeling better for listening to it; one that guarantees whether you put it on and listen to it with a group of friends or by yourself, you'll have a good time. Crawford's material isn't particularly groundbreaking (game shows, black parents vs white parents, and President Obama) but Crawford himself is a true original and his approach and delivery are what makes this album such a success.
You don't have to see Crawford to know he's a big guy. He sounds heavy, and if you've ever heard Patton Oswalt's "Fat" bit where he talks about "B-word fat...the kind of fat where people can tell that you're fat if they just hear you talking", then you know just what I mean. At times it's a bit hard to understand what Crawford is saying - even his first name sounds more like "ew-ah-ew" than "Lavell" - but he's aware of it and often uses his under-annunciation for dead-on comedic effect.
That being said, Crawford earns kudos for not using his size as the main focus of his material. He mentions it briefly at the very onset but then wisely moves on. He could very easily fall into the same one-trick rut as other plus-sized comedians (yes, I'm looking at you, Gabriel Iglesias. And John Pinette) but Crawford doesn't have to rely on easy jokes to get a laugh. He's better than that.
Much, much better.
Take, for example, his stint on Last Comic Standing. Forget that he didn't win the grand prize. Crawford jumps into what would have happened if he did win, who he would have called from his past, and what he would have told them and it's off to the races from there. Crawford works himself up into a condescending frenzy as he goes down the list of people who wronged him, and each imaginary revenge phone call gets funnier and funnier.
Yes, Crawford is black and yes, it seems the majority of the audience in the theater during the taping of this show is, too, but don't let that for a second classify Crawford as a "black comic." To do so would suggest that Crawford and his material could only be appreciated by African-Americans and there couldn't be an assumption further from the truth. Crawford talks about issues all of us can relate to, from watching "Thundercats" as a kid to how we would really react if it turned out our house was haunted. Even when Crawford does touch on race, it's not done with an approach of exclusivity. Crawford invites everyone in and even if we can't relate first-hand, the material is still made relevant and approachable.
After listening to the album all week, I caught Crawford's special on Comedy Central. If you caught the show, you know already how funny he is. If you only see the show, though, and don't pick up the album, you're denying yourself some of the funniest bits on the project. It's understandable that some things had to go for the sake of time, but at the same time it's a shame what didn't make the final cut. I suppose that's what happens when you're this funny. No matter what gets cut, it's going to be something good. I don't envy the editor who had to cut that special down to from 57 to some 40-odd minutes.
One bit that is especially clever, mostly because he does the entire thing twice in a row, is about a mother giving her son a stern warning of how he needs to behave once they enter a grocery store. She breaks it all down for him: what he needs to do, what he definitely needs to not do, and exactly what will happen to him if he dares to do what he has been told not to do.
After a hilarious portrayal of the frazzled mom giving these directions, Crawford then switches sides and embodies the child, who has been told to repeat what was just told to him in order to ensure he was listening. What happens next is pure comedy gold as Crawford re-tells every last instruction, only this time in the unsure, nervous, deep-voiced persona of the youngster. It's comedy characterization at it's very finest and Crawford plays up every subtle nuance like a pro.
The title of this project asks the question, "Can a brother get some love?" After people spend some time with Lavell Crawford, I don't think that's gonna be a problem.