Our newest columnist, Vito Calise, is taking on the huge task of reviewing all the comedy specials he can see. You know him from SiriusXM’s Bennington Show, The Interrobang’s Big Brothers podcast, and as the star of the first ever Instagram young adult drama series, The Halls. Born and raised on New York City’s Upper West Side, Vito went to Chelsea’s School of Visual Arts, has danced on bars as a bartender around Manhattan, operated a mechanical bull and was even a doorman for a week. And he loves comedy. And he’s taking on Marlon Wayans new stand up special Wokeish.
“His special “Woke-Ish” just isn’t it.”
This is Marlon Wayans second Netflix project, the other being Naked, a movie that he produced, wrote and starred in that came out on the service over the summer. If you were disappointed by Naked, hoping it was a return to greatness from the Wayans, well, sorry this isn’t going to do it for you either. It really sucks that this special isn’t good because there is just something about the Wayans, and Marlon, especially that you just want to like, but his special “Woke-Ish” just isn’t it.
Most of the jokes are just what I consider “Facebook Status Comedy”, things you don’t expect to see in a Netflix special because you see it all day on your newsfeed. The Kardashians suck, Trump sucks, the rapper Designer is hard to understand etc. He also relies on what sounds exactly like Dave Chappelle’s impression of a white voice. The low point of the special though is when he gets a cheap laugh from the audience by referencing White Chicks and even quoting his own line from the movie.
The name of the special, “Woke-Ish” seems like a stupid name at first that was just shoehorned in but halfway through the special the title makes sense. It’s actually something that had a lot of potential; Marlon gets serious throughout the special and then immediately goes into comedy mode. It’s the idea of how can a comedian find that balance between being “woke” while still being able to mock everything we now make fun of that word for representing.
There is no real vibe to this special. It’s just jokes that are jammed next to each other, even when he tries to segue with a common theme it comes off completely unnatural. Sometimes he even just says things like “Thanks for coming out tonight” to reset the stage and go right into a new joke. When he doesn’t do something like this, it’s just an awkward edit. The editing of the special may be its weakest part, throughout the special you see Marlon deliver a punch line, into a crowd shot, and then an obvious audio transition and back to Marlon setting up the next joke.
He starts off the special by making fun of how old he is and how it’s hard to move around at his age, but this is as he’s jumping up and down like a maniac and doing all the things he claims he’s unable to do. Obviously, a lot of comedy is made up and it’s no secret that comedians sometimes make up premises, but it’s weird to hear a joke while it’s being proven to be untrue.
There are people who are going to love this special there, there is clearly an audience full of people fully engaged here. If you liked White Chicks, the Scary Movie films and Marlon’s parody movies then guess what, you’re probably going to like this but when it’s put up against the other specials that have been released in the past year, it doesn’t measure up.
The one compliment Marlon gets is how good he is with this live crowd. He has these people in the palm of his hand. They’re singing along to lyrics and they’re all shouting out in unison to his call and response jokes. He has an incredible charisma and is a funny guy, it’s truly impressive how much the crowd loves him. The special He has an amazing stage presence and knows how to keep the attention on himself which is harder to do than you would think even when you’re the only thing on stage. The special constantly cuts to crowd shots as if to remind you that people are enjoying it.
Unfortunately, the material just isn’t there to keep you as entertained at home as those people attending. Wayans delivers material that you’ve heard a million times before and there will not really be anything you remember from this special a few weeks from now after another 3 have dropped. There is so much comedy coming out at what feels like a daily pace now that it’s really important for comedians to be memorable and not just sound like the rest. Marlon has the charisma to be one of those memorable guys, he just needs to improve the material.