Michael Che, co-anchor of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live, tackles just about every divisive topic America has to offer his new special. Matters is a seamlessly paced, unruffled dialogue on racism — a given considering the title — homophobia, gun control, gentrification, porn, cat calling, gorillas and religion.
Che doesn't shy away from racially driven material, launching straight into issues and nuances surrounding the N word within the first 30 seconds of his set. It's one of the strongest starts you'll find in a comedy special. Every joke in Che's first five minutes is an immediate hit. He saves the slow burners for later.
Perhaps drawing on his experience as a topical writer/co-host, Che makes the first third of his set a topical diatribe on the N word, then the Black Lives Matter movement (perhaps the biggest highlight), then Harambe the gorilla — whom Che refuses to call by name — and a little later, Brooklyn's viral catcalling video, followed by Trump's (then questionable) chances of becoming president of the United States.
He tackles sensitive and silly subjects with equal tenacity and a vaguely optimistic sense of nonchalance. Despite all the political material, Che at no point comes across as self-righteous, angry or bitter. That said, he doesn't give the audience the impression he's playing it safe either. It's a refreshing take on inflammatory material in today's polarized, treacherous, quick-to-offend comedy landscape. Che is anything but argumentative throughout his special — except when it comes to his lack of concern for gorillas. He doesn't express the need to win anyone over to his side or his ideals. With hilarious material and a delivery as strong as his, he doesn't have to. He comes across as though he doesn't care whether he convinces anyone of anything or not. He probably doesn't. That carefree attitude in large part makes the special what it is.
Michael Che is rarely one to rely solely on rehearsed material. A big part of his live shows involve more than the usual amount of crowd work. Crowd work is a risky thing to attempt during the taping of a comedy special primarily geared towards viewers watching at home. Che's interaction with his audience — while toned down for the taping — is nonetheless brilliant, putting him in a league all his own. Whether discussing religion, porn preferences or gorillas, Che is quick on the uptake no matter what turns his interactions with audience members take.
Matters is a pointedly funny political, sociological set of standup, unquestionably worth an hour of just about anyone's time.
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.