Craig Robinson Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON, September 30

Craig Robinson Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON, September 30
Part sing-along and part standup, Craig Robinson's show made the whole room feel like one giant organism. After Dave Hemstad and Ralphie Roberts performed fantastic opening sets, the This Is the End star got the crowd to act as his personal choir, one that would do anything on demand.
Dave Hemstad started the show by talking about having a kid in his 40s, and how people worried that his kid would come out like "a loaf of bread with eyes." Hemstad also acknowledged that he looked like a cop, argued that the downfall of lasting relationships happened because women stopped making pies from scratch, and he sarcastically told the crowd to never go beyond a "golf clap level" of laughter. He was charismatic and confident, yet he had bite and a bit of humility.
Ralphie Roberts followed Hemstad by likening his stomach to a tucked-in shirt and joking about trying to braid his daughters' hair while his wife was gone, then went into some material that would have been impossible to do without his dedicated delivery. The Chicagoan comic was wonderfully funny as he imitated a DJ hired to sing country songs for a square dance with an imitation of a nasal Southern accent, an exuberant beat, and lyrics about "hos" that were amusingly out of place in the genre.
Craig Robinson began his portion of the show by frankly but kindly telling everyone to put their phones away, then he told a story about a little girl bugging him for cereal every night that swerved into funny territory when he revealed that he doesn't have kids and he was actually being haunted.
After that, he launched into the musical portion of his act. Robinson delighted the crowd of over 1000 people by playing the piano part to "If You're Happy and You Know It," then hilariously bursting into frustration when the audience continued clapping during the second verse of the nursery rhyme instead of stomping their feet. These comical fits of rage — where Robinson yelled and smashed the piano — happened often, but he spaced them out enough that they always surprised the audience, so the bit never felt overused.
Though Robinson had a lot of great moments, as he made fun of famous tunes and sang his trademark song "Take Yo Panties Off," the best moments centred around the audience. Robinson was hilarious when he mockingly compared his snappy beat "dm-dm-dm CHA" to our terrible, unmusical rendition of it as "doom-doom-doom chaw." Additionally, the moment where he talked to a guy called Dave in the front row and some random drunk girl yelled "Woo! I LOVE YOU DAVE!" was so spontaneously funny that it even cracked Robinson up.
Arguably, you could criticize Robinson by saying that singing popular songs doesn't take much skill or involve any risk, but his show was a damn good time. Also, it's not as easy as it looks to command a room like he did. The way he seduced the crowd into being as easy to play as the keyboard at his fingertips took a lot more skill than one might assume at a first glance.