Wyatt Cenac Café Cleopatra, Montreal QC, July 21

Wyatt CenacCafé Cleopatra, Montreal QC, July 21
Photo: Eric Michael Pearson
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Bringing his act to Montreal for the first time, former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac started out with a strong bit about his fear of falling asleep on the New York subway, not because he's worried he might be mugged or miss his stop, but because he might be Instagrammed and mocked online: "Look at Sleepy Cornell West."
 
Cenac was at ease on stage, maintaining an even delivery, occasionally pausing to drink water in order to let a particularly good punch line sink in to the audience. His perfectly-timed delivery kept the crowd laughing and listening closely to every word.
 
He riffed on pop culture a bit, including the similarities between the Kardashians and the British Royal Family, and Captain America's epic struggle to not be racist, but much of his best material concentrated on contemporary politics. On the subject of the Confederate flag, Cenac suggested that part of the reason for keeping it up so long was its attractive design. He mused on the question of why extreme terror organizations, from ISIS to the Nazis, have such a superior design aesthetic: "It must be the use of the clean line."
 
His set took on a more emotional tenor when he discussed the rampant killing of African-Americans by police, and Cenac made a point of naming many of the recent victims. He worked in a tension-breaking joke about wearing inappropriate footwear to the march following the murder of Eric Garner by the NYPD, and then related his own darkly comical experience of being arrested by a mall cop eager to abuse his authority.
 
Cenac's unique comedic take on contemporary life and politics feels fresh and necessary.