It’s been a weird year for comedian Chris Redd; he left Saturday Night Live (probably for the best considering the shaky 48th season), starred in and created the underrated comedy Bust Down, and just last week he was sent to the hospital when a person attacked him outside the Comedy Cellar in New York City (though thankfully he seems to be on the mend).
The Redd news continues, as his first one-hour special arrives on HBO Max tomorrow, entitled Why Am I Like This?. From the outset, Redd prioritizes connecting with the audience, an aspect of his comedy we didn’t get to see during his tenure on SNL. Ultimately, though, this fast-and-loose approach he has with crowd interaction comes from the same qualities that make him an excellent improviser; whether he’s complimenting a woman’s enthusiasm about therapy or answering a person’s retort about airlines, Redd shows off just how game he is for going off track and embracing spontaneous hilarity. His exuberance is infectious, buoying his every movement.
It’s no wonder that Redd’s confident onstage, but it’s a real treat to see him finally shine on his own and within his own framework (however loose that may be). Redd shows off his impressions, nailing the cadence of a pilot announcing a delay over the intercom and his old white lady therapist, and his physical comedy also proves impressive. He can mimick an orgy, or Jesus Christ on the cross, or even just throw in a moonwalk for the hell of it. Beyond these bigger goofs, Redd also thrives in quieter moments, like a throwaway line that just brings the joke home. Redd has range.
The set itself is made up of personal stories that generally focus on who Redd as a person, answering the special’s titular question of Why Am I Like This?. He tells us where he’s been—touching on his brief foray into drug dealing and trying to impress his older cousin—and brings us to where he is now—crying next to a woman twerking on a boat. Redd is especially compelling when grappling with fame; sure, now he can live the dream by flying his friends down to Miami to party, but he never realized how expensive that lifestyle is. Redd’s down-to-earth approach to his newfound celebrity keeps him from becoming unrelatable.
We get to know Redd throughout the hour, but along the way the special can get bumpy. There are moments when he seems to fumble, like at the beginning of his bit about weed legality, repeating himself and taking a little long to get around to the meat of the joke. Redd also uses dehumanizing language to refer to people addicted to drugs, which is just disappointing to hear.
On the whole, Why Am I Like This? is a fun first hour with Redd. He regales us with tall tales, entertains us with his animated physical comedy, and shows us how bright his post-SNL future can be.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.