First things first: Lavell Crawford: New Look, Same Funny! is a weird title, considering it’s the comedian’s second stand-up special for Showtime since he dropped in excess of 120 pounds. In fact, he even already used the same jokes about his body’s “check engine” light turning on whenever he climbed stairs in his 2017 Showtime special, Home For The Holidays.
He devotes half of the new hour to his decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery, with jokes about how he endured good nurse-evil nurse treatment afterward, and how the surgery impacted his relationship with his wife. Crawford stops for a minute to show off his son’s drawing depicting his weight-loss transformation, which appears not only on the stage’s massive backdrop, but also on the back of his jacket. And sure, he hopes he inspires other people to consider the surgery or just get healthier. But despite all of that, and the title, that’s not the main point, or rather turning point, in his 2019 comedy act.
The biggest development in his life now? Turning 50.
Since Crawford hit the milestone age, he has realized he simply has neither the time nor the need to care about many of the things that might have bugged him before.
This overarching theme leads Crawford into some premises and punchlines you might not expect for a middle-aged plus-sized black man in comedy.
For instance, he disagrees with the notion that fat people are unhappy, choosing to believe that by indulging in food is “our drug,” so we’re happy. He has found happiness inside a Golden Corral or even at the hot dog bar of a QuikTrip convenience store and gas station.
He jokes that he no longer has time to care about racism, and that he won’t earn any bonus points with any audience member just for saying he hates Trump. There’s a great case to be made there for comedians to work harder if they want to joke about the current president. And yet, Crawford chooses to find it amusing how Trump pisses everyone off. He jokes that the government shutdown at the beginning of 2019 provided varying degrees of ridiculous excuses for people trying to get out of their obligations.
Crawford’s political worldview may be somewhat simplistic (America is safer now because Trump is crazier than terrorists; and that also makes gas cheaper), but what those jokes lack in arguments that may win points with critics, he makes up for in connecting with his fanbase in terms of audible laughs.
So he can get away with mocking Black Lives Matter precisely because of how he does it. “I had to wear a shirt that said my life matters?!” he asks, adding a minute later, “Those shirts cost $25 apiece!”
Or he can defend Kanye West’s remarks on slavery by offering that Crawford knows nothing first-hand about slave work. Moreover: “I would’ve died at the orientation.” Crawford can chew up the scenery by asking the audience to imagine him even trying to pick cotton, and acting out his first day of slave labor. If that seems too outdated, don’t worry. He’ll also act out how he really presents himself should he ever get pulled over by police.
Though not nearly as condescending as Bill Cosby’s “pull up your pants” preaching to young black men, the 50-year-old Crawford does joke that any black man his age knows better than to try to make a point about civil rights during a police encounter. He may aspire to the rebellious heights of Tupac or Nat Turner, but he jokes that he just keeps that to himself.
“I don’t got time to prove nothing to nobody,” Crawford tells the crowd. “You can judge me if you want to, but if police pull me over…I’m Uncle Tom’ing like a motherf—er.”
Or, in short: “Life is too short to be worrying about bullshit.”
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.