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Deadpan Talking

Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac proves himself a master of stand-up in new special

By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief

Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac debuted his own stand-up special this past week, “Comedy Person,” with a release on DVD, CD and online Aug. 23. Cenac is almost exclusively not physical at all as a performer, with a bare minimum of pacing the stage.

Cenac’s comedy is largely verbal, and his invention goes into the writing of what he delivers, as he plays with irony and absurdity, at the same time that he conveys a cutting point of view on political and social topics. The cover image of Cenac, deadpan, sporting the old Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head prop, sums up his tone accurately.

Among the highlights here are “Medieval Times,” ‘Rosa Perks” and “Making Slurry.” In the first of these, Cenac places himself in the midst of this tourist-geared entertainment, in the context of being dragged along by a group of friends who are way too old for it. This is one example of the inventiveness Cenac displays in his material. He’s definitely improved at developing premises and expanding on them from the more halting efforts seen in live performances two years ago (see reviews, 8/23/09 and 1/20/09).

“Rosa Perks” does veer from one thought to another much more so than “Medieval Times” but here the parts that make up the overall piece are so imaginative and convincing that it doesn’t matter. In particular, Cenac sends up PETA protestors who choose a very misguided way to make their point outside the Westminster Dog Show – by dressing in Klan robes and comparing the event to slavery. In short, even in his low-key style, Cenac rips them a new one. 

“Making Slurry,” the final piece in Cenac’s special, closes it with another understated piece that also gets explosive laughs – and it’s one that’s been in his repertoire awhile. He marvels at how Jewish girls co-opted the slur “jap” as “Jewish-American princess,” a point of weird pride. Cenac muses that they could also reclaim “nice Israeli girl, great education [pauses] – rich.”

Cenac has truly delivered a classic set on “Comedy Person,” one that is mindful of some of the great comics of past generations, such as Cosby, Seinfeld and Newhart, while adding his own more modern and profane edges to it.




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