Thornbury Theatre, 15 December, 2012
JB Smoove bounds onto the stage to the sound of loud Hip Hop music, and unleashes a torrent of high-octane, expletive-ridden, patter that establishes his credentials as one bad mofo. This guy doesn’t let up. He makes a ruckus! I don’t know what he’s on, but I’ve got to get me some of that shit. He maintains a punishing pace throughout the best part of his 90-minute routine, which pulls out all stops. He spits out one hilarious tale after another, riffing like a jazz musician on a series of classic comedy themes, while illustrating his act with a repertoire of uproarious moves, grooves, and sound effects — he knows how to work a microphone as a prop and as an effects machine. He taps, smashes, and genuinely abuses his SM 58 in the service of his high-energy act, which makes it clear that JB is a distinct entity from Leon Black, the character he plays on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and whose success has given his career a monumental boost.
Smoove is a physical comedian who makes the most of his, pliable expressive face, which he twists and contorts to great effect. He rarely sits still, preferring action to mere stand-up. On one level, he shouldn’t be nearly as funny as he actually is. Most of his routines are politically incorrect rants about sex. We learn that he likes ‘bitches’ in high heels, that he produces prodigious quantities of cum, and that it’s important to give your bitch tittie attention, if you want to keep her satisfied. He also gives the audience occupational health and safety tips on how to have sex standing up without putting your back out, along with several other suggestions for keeping things hot in the bedroom. He gets away with this macho shit because he has an excess of attitude and charm, which, for me at least, neutralises the aggressive tone of his material. JB knows how to take the piss out of himself, and his swaggering, sexually potent persona is an ironic exaggeration, which is oddly endearing.
To be fair, some of his funniest stories are not about sex. His extended yarn about the pleasures and perils of New York City hot dogs, for example, made the audience hoot and holler. The audience clearly loved him, and he managed to work in a few local references, which didn’t come across as cheesy, or forced. Leon discovered Tim Tams, and used his newfound taste for our national confection as a running gag. He even invited a member of the audience on stage to reprise one of his Leon Black scenes — the local lad delivered a creditable version of Leon, while JB stood in for the absent Larry David.
JB is a hard working guy. Not only did he deliver an utterly compelling, if somewhat anarchic show, but he moved into the theatre’s foyer immediately after the performance to sign autographs and take photographs with his appreciative fans. He promised to return to Australia, and I have no doubt he’ll redeem his pledge. I’m also sure he’ll be playing a much bigger venue when he returns. The man is a star. Yep, this is shot I like.