In his appearance at Riverview last Friday night, comedian Jay Black occasionally got laughs but didn’t quite achieve enough comedic chemistry with the audience to leave much of an impression.Black, a comedian who travels mostly on the college circuit, was a tall guy with dark hair and glasses who often got stuck in a few uncomfortable gestures — leaning over as if to scratch his knee, or his arm outstretched with the heel of his hand jabbing up. Likewise, his speech had a few riffs too often, too loudly: “Hey, don’t get mad, it’s just a joke,” and “Come on, laugh, I need this.”
Black claimed later that he “could have done a G-rated show,” but he wasn’t out to back that claim. His material relied heavily on his sex life, real, imagined, or exaggerated, and he didn’t hesitate to be direct. He took a scholarly bent to such issues as how men and women view sex differently — “I’ve done research,” he assured us. No one seemed offended, but he was toeing the line.
Black took breaks from bedroom humor to mock Catholics (he is one, and he had an amusing take on the “aerobics” of a Catholic mass), southerners, “stupid people,” and his personal favorite, Bangladesh, a country ranking 27 places above the US in math scores (“We may be 27th in math, but you know what we’re number one in? Places you actually want to live!”).
He attempted to win the audience early on with a few jabs at President Bush and Midwesterners, but lost any foothold with his tired lines on gender.
His style tended to flow quickly from one idea to the next, pausing occasionally to make sure we got his wordplay, or to lightly tease audience members.
While any guy who thinks he’s funny is at risk for ego problems, Black made no secret of his. He jumped down from the stage mid-show to yell at his audience to laugh.
Early on, he orchestrated an “encore” so that he could return for a “question and answer” session, which amounted to a few more stories, but also a chance for Black to bring out his earnest side. He spoke with feeling about his 6 month-old son, and about his previous work as a high school English teacher.
After the show, he talked with enthusiasm about encouraging his students to follow their dreams. The show had concluded with a recitation of two original “poems” about New Jersey’s legendary rudeness, and third that, while ending with the same tone as the other two, was actually the opening of T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
“I threw that out there for the college students who would get it,” he said. Later, he talked about his interpretation of the poem — about a middle-aged man who is afraid to live — reinforcing his message that we should go for our dreams now. A nice sentiment, but we prefer our comics fresh and cynical.
Black can be found online at jayblackcomedy.com, where an email to Black earns you a free CD of his material.