JB Smoove begins his set by dancing out to the center of the stage, cutting the music, dancing in reverse back to the wings and reentering. He ends his set bounding around the stage as King Kong with a Barbie doll wrapped around the microphone, which is swinging between his legs as a floppy makeshift dong. In between there are about six jokes told.
Clearly Smoove isn’t a “Joke Guy.” He can sell a strange idea on his Stretch Armstrong physicality alone, and thus he’s able to extend each bit for as long as possible, pulling every morsel of meat from the comedy bone (so to speak). On his debut stand-up special That’s How I Dooz It, Smoove demonstrates his uncanny ability to turn the smallest joke into a 10-minute segment that ebbs and flows, building to multiple crescendos that often involve some serious contortions and/or the repetition of words and phrases. It sometimes feels flimsy but mostly reads as a distillation of comedy to its goofy core.
One of Smoove’s bits is predicated merely on a hand gesture. After an extended rant about the police, he mentions (after the commercial break) that all cops start arrests the same way: pulling one’s wrist back in the most uncomfortable way possible. Smoove is quick to demonstrate, and while marveling at how impractical it is, his mind begins seeking out the positives of what this new wrist position might afford. For example, it makes sprinkling salt and pepper into food a whole lot easier, which he shows the audience a few times. Maybe it could be used for scooping said food onto the plate of your friend. Maybe, in fact, it looks like a swan during a shadow-puppet performance at a child’s birthday party, and after that swan commits a terrible crime he can be thrown in jail, which Smoove flaunts by shoving his arm behind the metal bars of an onstage chair.
Smoove grins broadly throughout the bit, too. There’s no sense that he’s taking himself very seriously; he’s perfectly aware of how ridiculous he must look to the audience, and that little bit of self-awareness gives him permission to push things in even wackier directions. It doesn’t take long: once again readying his trusty chair as a prop, he talks about women who want him to hoist them up for sex and points out that the more he’s aged, the shorter the window in which he’s able to maintain that posture. He claims a minute is his maximum, so the audience is treated to a real-time showcase of his prowess, with the poor chair on the receiving end.
Smoove relies heavily on his physicality to sell a joke. After all, the first big laugh of the night comes when he sticks his head inside his white shirt, letting it slowly emerge like a giant black baby coming out of a pristine white vagina. It’s all pretty damn charming, but it falls short in its ability to rescue hacky premises. His relationship material comes in the form of “Flip-Flop Face,” the look and posture of a woman who spent all day waiting around for her man to return. A few seconds of a hunchbacked Smoove dragging his feet and moaning and the joke becomes clear, but the bit itself drags as Smoove keeps up the impression and lists all the reasons there’s no excuse for his woman to not be presentable when he comes home. It’s a quick decline from novel premise to opening-act-in-Idaho territory. There are also odd sketch segments that bring the audience back from the commercial breaks, where Smoove sits in a chair and talks to the camera. Stripped of his greatest gift—his fascinating stage presence—these short bits provide little other than a dip in the frantic energy level of the special.
Nothing really lingers, though. Smoove is best known for playing Leon Black, the manic and verbose friend of Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Given That’s How I Dooz It, Black’s exuberance doesn’t seem to be a character choice as much as it’s an extension of the way Smoove conducts himself in all comedic fashions. When imitating ejaculation using the microphone cord, he twists and contorts his face multiple times to sell the joke beyond the obvious guy-waving-a-cord-near-his-penis level. He jokes about criminals getting into shape on the treadmill and acts out a scene where he’s running alongside an innocent bystander whose iPod is snatched by the burglar. He plays both parts—the surprise of the victim as well as the glee of the crook—way over the top and with contrasting physicalities. Smoove effortlessly controls the stage, and even though not every joke works, his uncanny stamina is something to marvel. The guy’s a hell of a showman.