Judge Josh Rode isn't asking for love; he's just looking for a good time.
"Well, St. Louis, I'm home. This is my city."
St. Louis native Lavell Crawford got his start at an Illinois comedy club open mic night, and has since risen steadily through the ranks of standup comedians. He even entered the fifth season of NBC's Last Comic Standing and came in second behind Jon Reep…which is too bad, because he really wanted that $250,000 prize.
Facts of the Case
Lavell Crawford: Can a Brother Get Some Love? was recorded at St. Louis' Roberts Orpheum Theatre in October 2010. Lavell is a large man with an expressive face (especially his eyes, which can boggle on command), but most of his jokes don't have much of a visual element. So it's safe to fold laundry or wash dishes while listening, without worrying about missing a lot. His quick delivery uses pauses to good effect, which makes the pacing nicely balanced, although his annunciation is somewhat muddled so there are occasional rewind moments.
If you are of the opinion that a standup routine's title should give you an idea of what the comedian's general theme is going to be, Lavell Crawford: Can a Brother Get Some Love? is misnamed. At no point during the ninety-minute concert does he bemoan his lack of respect from anyone. In fact, Lavell's main topic is mothers. Not just his (though she does get plenty of airtime), but mothers in general. From wiping butts, noses, and faces "all with the same rag" to how different mothers react to missing children ("If you don't come out of those woods by the time I count three, you living there!"), Lavell dedicates the entire first half of the show to the topic. Black mothers as dominating matriarchs have become their own archtype, so Lavell doesn't break any new ground, but most of his observations are funny. The highlight is the "Grocery Store" bit, in which a mother leaves nothing out when it comes to reminding her children how to behave when they enter the store. "If you get up in the store and act any kind of fool—and I do mean any kind of fool—I'm gonna kill all three of you. 'Cause I'm seventeen and when I get out of jail I'll still be young enough to get three more just like you. I don't like how your hair's growing in anyway."
While we're on the subject of mothers, it might be helpful to rehash some old news. In 1995, a white woman named Susan Smith was convicted of murder after putting her two toddlers in car seats and letting her car roll into a lake. She told the police that a black man had carjacked her, which naturally incensed the black community. I bring this up because Lavell will assume you know about this case, since it's key to one of his bits. From the way the audience says "down by the lake" with him, I assume this is one of his cornerstone rants.
The second half of the performance deals with a wide range of topics. Again, Lavell covers no new ground, talking about sex after kids ("You ain't going to get no booty"), his newly re-acquainted father ("You can clap for him if you want to, I guess. It ain't like he was lost at sea or nothin'."), Heaven's ghetto ("Other angels falling out of the sky 'cause they ain't put enough minutes on they wings."), and even a smattering of politics. The show loses momentum just past the halfway point, with a lengthy bit about a kid who screams, "Die!" instead of crying. Lavell follows that up by surmising about how such a scream would go over in other contexts. Fortunately, the stumble happens early enough that there is time to recover. His act picks up steam, after segueing into suburban trick-or-treating, and finishes on an upswing.
In terms of presentation, the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is sharp, with minimal shots of the audience. Going all out with a Dolby 5.1 audio track didn't make much sense, as the surrounds aren't used to much effect. Bonus features include a trailer for the show, and a behind-the-scene featurette which fits the title of the DVD better than the actual performance. On the day before the show, as he walks off the airplane, Lavell states that St. Louis is his home and they love him there. The rest of the time is spent proving his surmise wrong; from getting an unluxurious luxury vehicle to being kicked out of church choir practice, Lavell can't get love anywhere in his city. It's a funny vignette, made more so because they got real people to play themselves.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Can a Brother Get Some Love? suffers the same problem as many topical standup shows: many of the references are quickly outdated. For instance, there's a segment about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, along with President Obama facing the media as they ask him what he's going to do about it. Lavell makes it funny, but a few years down the road the context may be lost.
Lavell Crawford: Can a Brother Get Some Love? is not "laugh until you can't breathe" funny, but it'll keep you smiling all the way through.
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