Walking into a sold out venue can be a mess, but last night the staff at Caroline’s on Broadway were seasoned pros when it came time to handle the masses. Packed to capacity, the crowd was herded in and took their seats for headliner Will Smith Denzel Washington Jay Pharoah of SNL. After a few quick shout outs to thank all of the 10th annual New York Comedy Festival sponsors (including Village Voice, holllllllla), everyone was amped and ready for the show to finally start.
Hosting the event was Hadiyah Robinson and yes. She came right out making sure that we “white folk” knew how to spell her name properly. Hadiyah started with some crowd work, finding out where the audience was from — quite a mix of locals and out-of-towners from far and wide (Arkansas, Montreal, Philly, Cali). She warned the non-New Yorkers about creepy men on the trains (unless they’re cute because then they’re not so creepy), talked about being single, and mentioned she had no kids before asking the crowd to “clap it up for abortions.”
After two openers, Pharoah hit the stage dancing and rapping along to 2 Chainz and was met with uproarious applause. Wearing a sphinx t-shirt and vest hoodie, it was obvious Pharaoh was at ease on the stage. He rocked the house, and no topic was too taboo. He riffed about “sistas” tendency to be very He instantly went in on his love for “sistas” because of the way they are so expressive with their hands. White folks weren’t spared either, Pharoah saying they make him feel safe, especially in a bad neighborhood because, “Ya’ll will get robbed before me.”
Throughout the hour long set, Pharoah returned to the theme “I ain’t no punk. I’m a survivor,” as he discussed meeting and shaking Magic Johnson’s hand (and how he washed his hands for 20 minutes afterward), why he can no longer smoke weed, thanking Asians for the game “Candy Crush” and hating on the Japanese for messing up porn for him, how everyone will stop what they’re doing when the “Cha Cha Slide” comes on (even people at a funeral carrying a casket), and why people need to take an authoritative tone with their kids.
Of course we all know Pharoah absolutely kills it when it comes to impersonations. He treated us to the myriad spot-on impersonations in his arsenal: Jay-Z, Katt Williams, Stephen A. Smith, Bernie Mac, Denzel Washington, Kanye West, Chris Rock, Shaq, Dave Chappelle, Lil Wayne, Barack Obama, Eddie Murphy, Joseline Hernandez (Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta), Charlie Murphy, and Will Smith. He is simply an unreal talent.
Pharoah said the reason he learned how to do voices was because he was a total loner in school who got bullied. So, thanks you dumb bullies. You made quite a talent out of that fat kid you used to pick on. I guess the joke is on them.
Pharoah ended by saying, “Enjoy the time you have here with the people you love.” He then dedicated his performance to Arlene Swimpson who he mentioned was like a second mother to him. It was very well played and a very spectacular show all around. The standing ovation he got afterward was well deserved.
Critical Bias: The crowd was a total mix of young NY hipsters sprinkled in with a few older suits. It was such a mix, in fact, that it made one think about how great it is that getting a good laugh appeals to all ages and races.
Overheard in the Crowd: Do Jay-Z again! (To which Pharoah replied, “Yo, the show’s over. I already did that. Where the fuck were you?”)
Random Notebook Dump: There was a step in front of where I was sitting and Caroline’s should note that there should be a light put on it. I counted 13 people tripping directly in front of me while I was there.