Neal Brennan’s chief professional accomplishment and door-opener is that he co-created Chappelle’s Show, writing—mostly just he and Chappelle—the sketches that made the show both famous and great. But Chappelle famously bailed on the show—not telling Brennan or anybody else—leaving his co-creator to his own devices just when things could have taken off in an even bigger way. (The two have apparently reconciled somewhat, but there was bad blood at the time.)
So, though Brennan has been doing stand-up off and on for 20 years, it’s not where he made his name: Only the most die-hard comedy fans will probably even recognize his face. Women And Black Dudes is Brennan’s first hour-long special, and even though he has all that experience under his belt, it feels every bit like a comic really finding his feet: Brennan, playing to a crowded theater, seems nervous, excited, and eager-to-please.
His material reflects that eagerness. Much of it is safe and relatively predictable stuff about religion (Joseph gets the shaft from history!), women (they’re always freezing!), texting while driving (it’s dangerous!), and sex (69-ing is complicated!). When Brennan gets more personal, though, it pays off. Having come up in showbiz alongside Chappelle, Brennan claims membership in an elite club of white guys who can be affectionately called the N-word: “They had a meeting,” he explains. “I got approved! I’m one of six white people who’s ever been approved.”
Brennan also tells the story of meeting the Obamas—fans of Chappelle’s Show—and getting some shit from the president about the sudden cancellation. It’s these looks into Brennan’s weird career arc that make his stories compelling: Here’s a guy very few people know that was part of something historically important to comedy without being its public face. That stuff shines next to an overlong story about how Brennan is planning the most elaborate funeral in history for himself.
At other points, he needs to be gleefully unrestrained to really find his rhythm, which sometimes hits the mark and sometimes doesn’t. First, he insists on using the word “retarded” (which, for the first time I’ve ever experienced, was bleeped by Comedy Central) for a punchline, which doesn’t work. Next, he lands with a bit about being vegan: “In New York and L.A., it’s easy, but in the rest of the country I might as well walk up and say, ‘Where do faggots eat?’” (He’s not gay, and backpedals a bit by explaining that that joke is okay because he’s the target of the insult.)
On the whole, Women And Black Dudes feels like a decent start to a stand-up career, which is notable mostly because it arrives so long into Brennan’s Hollywood arc. If he doesn’t break through in this arena the way that, say, Louis C.K. did—they share a similar background, Louis having written for a bunch of shows, including The Chris Rock Show—he’s still got plenty of background experience to fall back on.
Created by and starring: Neal Brennan
Airs: Saturday at midnight Eastern on Comedy Central
Format: Hour-long stand-up special