On HBO Max special, comedian Chris Redd makes even the heavy stuff hilarious
The ‘SNL’ alum tells anecdotes about drugs, gang violence and prison in a way that makes us laugh and nod our heads in recognition.
Chris Redd is deep into a routine about flying high on Delta while flying way too HIGH on Delta, dealing with all kinds of paranoia and trying not to totally lose it, when someone in the far reaches of the audience yells out, “Try United!”
Redd faces the friendly heckler and says, “You said ‘Try United’? Do you think THAT was my problem?” Rolling his eyes, Redd goes into an improvised routine about how it never occurred to him to switch airlines, because he’s in love with Delta.
It works as a quick-thinking bit — and it’s one of many instances during the hourlong HBO Max special “Chris Redd: Why Am I Like This?” when Redd demonstrates an uncanny ability to interact with the audience without ever losing control of the flow of his carefully constructed routines, which rely heavily on exaggerated personal experiences. Even with the nonstop use of the n-word and the anecdotes about drugs, gang violence and prison, there’s something likable and relatable to Redd’s humor. He has the craftsman’s way of telling you outlandish stories with sometimes heavy elements, and yet bringing it home in a way that makes us laugh and nod our heads in recognition.
A comedy special available Thursday on HBO Max.
Filmed in St. Louis, where Redd was born and spent his early years before moving to Naperville at the age of 8, “Why Am I Like This?” is a well-edited and fast-paced but deeply familiar special, production-wise, with the affable and animated Redd working the stage in leather pants and black T-shirt and Air Jordans, with simple scaffolding behind him, the obligatory stool with a bottle of water nearby. The 37-year-old actor and comic talks about spending his first big TV check to fly friends who were “between jobs” for a weekend in Miami in which Redd tries to re-create a Jay-Z video, and talks candidly and hilariously about dealing with ADHD, anxiety and depression, while bonding (to a certain extent) with his white, 75-year-old therapist Deborah, who travels in decidedly different circles: “She don’t know nobody I know! [She knows] Joe Biden, Benjamin Franklin …”
Redd draws heavily on personal experiences, from the folly of being 5-foot-6 and wanting to become a basketball player, to his short-lived effort to sell crack, to some hilarious misadventures with his older cousin, who really IS a criminal, or so the stories go. (No doubt Redd’s future routines will include his take on the frightening incident last month when an unknown assailant attacked him outside New York City’s Comedy Cellar and left him hospitalized. Already he has posted on Instagram: “I’m okay and healing fast…Also, NOBODY SNATCHED MY CHAIN BRO! Y’ALL WILL JUST WRITE ANYTHING.”)
After five-plus solid years on “SNL,” Redd departed ahead of the 48th season, but he’s aware of the impact the show has had on his career — and how much people love the series. Especially white people: “White people love ‘SNL’ to the point where if there was a flag to put on your house, you would have it, with the years you actually watched the show.”
He’s not wrong.