The January 19 comedy show at the Palms’s Pearl Theater in Las Vegas was originally supposed to feature Katt Williams, but thanks to Williams’s recent arrests and overall mental breakdown (which meant his entire tour got canceled), Mike Epps stepped in to take his place. Epps only made one quick reference to Williams during his set, while he was plugging the in-development Friday sequel Last Friday (in which both Epps and Williams are set to appear), but he made the most of it, comparing Williams to a Thundercat and mimicking his recent police chases.
If anyone in the audience was disappointed in the change of headliner, they didn’t show it, and in fact the long parade of openers (five performers, including one, Scruncho, who was onstage nearly as long as Epps) made a few people impatient for Epps to take the stage, yelling out his name as other comedians seemingly stalled for time. But when Epps finally did show up, he brought plenty of energy, and the enthusiastic crowd was clearly forgiving (one woman even tried to approach the stage and give Epps a gift, to which he responded by calling for security).
Much of the show, both during Epps’s performance and before it, was about getting the crowd hyped up, which grew pretty tiresome by the time Epps closed his set by eliciting cheers via just naming various cities and states. But whatever he was doing, it was clearly effective, and he managed to get big laughs simply by mentioning topics like strip clubs, hip-hop stars (“That dude 2 Chainz is 53.”) and President Obama (of whom he did a pretty decent impression, even if the concept of his bit about the president smoking weed was weak).
Although much of Epps’s entertainment value was in his delivery (he was never afraid to laugh at his own jokes, and often punctuated observations by clapping with the microphone), he did pull out some clever lines amid the relentless glad-handing. He opened by talking about Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy (“That baby’s gonna look like everybody.”), and even mined some amusing observations out of the tired subjects of black men with white women (“I guess you had a good Christmas this year.”) and young men hooking up with cougars (“I just want that Cadillac that’s been in your garage for 30 years.”) His image of his mother using his little brother as an implement to beat on him was probably the funniest line he had all night.
Too often, though, Epps just coasted on goodwill. He gave extended shout-outs to celebrity guests Mike Tyson and Eddie Levert, solicited cheers for every decade in which audience members could potentially have been born, and got possibly the biggest response of the night talking about the theoretical new Friday movie. Epps was very good at creating a fun time for the crowd, but his skill at crafting actual jokes could use a little refining.