Sketch show Black Boy Joy presents a refreshing depiction of young black men | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Sketch show Black Boy Joy presents a refreshing depiction of young black men

Comics Devin Middleton and Jordan Stafford send up race without pulling punches.


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The Annoyance Theatre is a low-key haunt where improvisers and other comedians incubate new, unexpected material. Sharing DNA with Antoinette Nwandu's critically acclaimed drama Pass Over, the comedic sketch show Teen Cudi Presents Black Boy Joy showcases young black men as lighthearted, silly, and carefree—a rare and refreshing take to see onstage or -screen.

Written and performed by up-and-coming comedians Devin Middleton and Jordan Stafford and directed by Atra Asdou, this show strikes the perfect balance, sending up race with levity without pulling punches. Stafford has a hilarious deadpan delivery and real acting chops, while Middleton possesses a mellower version of the ebullient earnestness that served Chris Farley and Robin Williams so well.

Though the overall pacing could stand to be tightened up, the show picks up after the first third to successfully deliver an above-average number of laughs. Many sketches tap-dance on the line between sincerity and comedy, sneaking up on the audience like a slowly heating pot of water that boils over into guffaws of recognition.

The sketches are linked by a cappella musical bits, a body-swap sketch with bros that delivers an unexpected take on a classic trope, and a delightfully clean take on toilet humor. Smart energy buoys a funny exhaustion joke about a rapper, a scene about Hollister is a wrenchingly funny lampoon of retail, and an extremely well-played moment of vulnerability that comes out of left field lands the biggest laugh of the show. v

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