A ball of kinetic energy by the name of J.B. Smoove rolled through Helium Comedy Club and broke the audience in half Thursday night, during the first of five shows running through Saturday.
Confession time: I first became aware of Smoove through his role as Leon Black on Larry David’s HBO show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” After moving in with David during the sixth season, Black became a source of occasionally profound (but mostly profane) wisdom that often stole every scene he was in. I had seen Smoove show up in various other movies and television shows, but didn’t really know what to expect from his standup act.
I was unprepared but overjoyed to see Smoove as a comedic tornado on stage, as he danced, jumped and vibrated with nearly every muscle in his body, sometimes physically becoming the punch line to jokes that left the audience in tears. Smoove also shared one trait with his “Curb” character with his incredibly expressive face, raising his eyebrows up and down and squinting one second then becoming wide-eyed absurd the next. I’ve seen Pixar characters who appeared less animated than Smoove.
As Smoove worked through his set talking about the secrets to romance or eating hot dogs in New York City, perhaps the most impressive characteristic was how well paced his act was for the audience. After a high-wire opening 20 minutes or so, Smoove took a seat on stage, giving the audience an unspoken approval that it was OK to take a breather as well. Laughter, after all, is a strange form of exercise, and it is frankly exhausting to laugh your fool head off for 90 minutes straight, as much fun as it can be. When Smoove would sit down, his setups were a little longer and he wasn’t as animated. It’s certainly possible Smoove was slowing it down for his own benefit as well, but watching and listening to him masterfully bring the crowd up and down at his command was like observing the conductor lead a philharmonic orchestra.
Smoove wasn’t just physically dexterous, but he also performed some impressive vocal gymnastics as well. Sound effects were used throughout his set, and none was more enjoyable than him replicating the noise a car makes when it peels out. The sound effect killed the first time Smoove used it, as well as the second time, and the third time. Again and again, Smoove would vocally peel out, and the crowd couldn’t get enough of it.
The headliner also used some local touches in his act, noting that Buffalo, a city known for its cold weather, had a particularly chilly day in late May. Imagining himself as a Buffalo cop, Smoove said he would try to make arrests while he remained inside the heated patrol car.
“Throw yourself onto the car,” Smoove yelled out, peaking from behind a slightly open window. “Now read yourself some rights!”
Mind you, Smoove uses a lot of strong language in his act, but I’m not sure if even clean quotes could do him justice without actually seeing him tell the jokes. No doubt about it, he is one of the most physically gifted comedians, high-energy comics I’ve ever seen live, making his adults-only show a can’t-miss.
Thursday night at Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St. Additional shows are at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for the 18-and-over show are $25-$38. Visit heliumcomedy.com