‘Keith Robinson: Different Strokes’ Review: Two or Three Fantastic Jokes, But That’s About It

I am in a dilemma. If I have to be blunt, I didn’t quite like Keith Robinson: Different Strokes the new Netflix comedy special. There was one joke that was absolutely hilarious (I will come to this later), but the whole thing didn’t quite work for me. Now here’s the thing: Robinson is a handicapped comedian. He had a stroke back in 2016 and then another one around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. His right side is pretty much paralyzed. Yet he keeps living his life, almost like a normal person. And most importantly, he is still performing. In fact, the Netflix special is actually about his strokes. I didn’t imagine the title to be this literal, but that’s exactly what is happening here. The stroke is the central topic, and Robinson sets all his jokes around it. That’s not exactly a bad idea, I would say. But the thing here is that most of them don’t quite land right. 

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However, I’m a little skeptical about criticizing here, for a very obvious reason. What Robinson does despite his unfortunate situation is inspiring as hell, and I have the utmost respect for that. But I think the comedian himself wouldn’t quite like it if I treated his special any differently than usual. Because at the end of the day, Robinson is still an artist who has written and performed his comedy special for Netflix, and I’m here to review it. I liked the fact that Robinson himself addressed the issue of being handicapped head-on. He certainly doesn’t like to be called that, but instead of getting angry, the man is making jokes out of it. The opening ten minutes of his standup are all about the two strokes he had and what they did to him, especially the second one, which was more serious than the first. He joked about how he thought nothing severe would happen when the first one happened but then he was absolutely scared during the second. 

Let me now talk about the best joke. It’s not a rare thing to see comedians go personal during their sets. I often wonder whether the stories (especially the embarrassing ones) that they’re telling on stage are real or not. Well, I guess it’s a mixture of fact and fiction, but a joke is a joke and all it needs to be is funny. So in what I consider the highlight of Robison’s standup, he speaks candidly about traveling to Newark from Arizona. What was the purpose of the journey? Getting laid, as declared by the man himself. Thanks to flying in first class, he got all the perks and had a great time, mainly because of the alcohol. With the flight about to land in twenty minutes, he popped the thing: Viagra. Robinson doesn’t forget to warn his male audience to never take that drug on flight. Back to the story, the man soon started to feel uneasy and realized he was going to collapse. After taking an Uber from the airport, he had a hard decision to make: going to the girl and doing what he came to do or going to the hospital to save himself? Well, he did the thing you would expect typical men to do. So he found himself at the girl’s door, still hoping he would be able to perform. And he did get close to what he considered the “mission.” Sadly, it turned out to be impossible (I’m really sorry) as his body started to give away. Soon, he needed to be taken to the hospital. But even in that moment, there was one certain thing still working in his body—all thanks to the Viagra he took. Robinson goes on, saying his story can very well be a commercial for the performance-enhancing drug, and I’ve got to say the man has a point! 

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The story of his first stroke is also quite funny. Robinson, who has no problem admitting that he was a liar and cheater (again, I’m not sure if this is just a story or real), had a really hard time making his ex believe that he actually had a stroke. The ex-wife understandably asked him to video call in order to prove. The comedian also speaks about how the act of sex is much different for men and women. While women would not go the distance for it, men would literally die for it. Robinson’s own story of his second stroke is a profound example of that. But then the comedian topped that by bringing former US President Bill Clinton into the fold. The man literally lost the most important job in the world, for you know what. I thought it was wise of Robinson to keep it subtle.

The rest of the standup mostly revolves around Robinson’s experience with his stroke. He didn’t really have a good time at the hospital during the pandemic, where he was put in the COVID ward even though he didn’t have it. Some white folks even got scared of catching COVID from him. Speaking of which, Robinson, like all black comedians, can’t stop himself by doing some race bits, but he mostly keeps it under control. He does throw in a joke that should be considered transphobic (the man admitted it himself), but it also had an economic angle. What didn’t sit right with me was Robinson criticizing the modern-day culture of liking and subscribing. He tries to put it in a funny manner, though, by terming it as “yapping.” This is clearly a boomer thing, but don’t you think you should remember the fact that you’re on Netflix, i.e., one of the most “yapping” culture things ever?

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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