Hanging out with his kids backstage before the show, it's pretty clear Lil Rel Howery's first standup special is going to be a family affair. In his 2015 special, presented by superstar comedian Kevin Hart, Howery — who can currently be seen on The Carmichael Show — takes on his parents, uncles, cousins, children, friends, pastors and fellow Chicagoans to bring audiences into his world of ridiculousness.
Howery excels in impersonating the mannerisms of his family members and the people he encounters. Whether it's the cousin who puffs out his chest because he holds in his emotions, the salty hoodrat high school kids on a bus, or his pastor uncle who falls asleep mid-conversation, Howery is able pinpoint certain characteristics about the people in his life and make the crowd and viewers feel like they know exactly whom he's talking about.
But for all of his success in characterizing people he probably knows best, a weak spot is in Howery's impressions of cab drivers. In two separate stories of experiences with cab drivers gone wrong, he relies on accents — which are tired, inconsistent in delivery and contribute to stories that ultimately fall flat — instead of the specific and well-thought-out physical and vocal cues that can be found throughout the rest of the hour.
However, he returns to his strengths, getting more personal with stories about his tough mother and his father who has a tendency to exaggerate ("My father fooled us for years. I thought he was a doctor growing up. Then I got old enough to read for real and saw a certified nursing assistant diploma").
Ending on a "kids say the darndest things" note results in some of the least original moments in RELevant, but in capturing most of the characters in his life, Howery proves that he's capable of grabbing his audience's attention and transporting them to his own world without having to deliver a string of punch lines.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.