“It can’t be a depression if all our poor people have camera phones. Poor people don’t take pictures,” jokes 29-year-old New York native Michael Che. “What miserable moment are you trying to capture?” Considering that he grew up in projects of the Lower East Side, this comic’s jokes are steeped in the sort of local color one might expect. More than this, though, his act digs deeper than the mundane happenings he talks about, offering keen insight into larger issues—race relations, gay marriage or world hunger—with a poignancy cloaked by his mirth.
After a mere two and a half years as a stand-up, Che has leapfrogged through the ranks, appearing in Comedy Central’s 2011 Comics to Watch showcase and nabbing his own night in Carolines’ Breakout Artist Comedy Series. Currently in the midst of a banner year, he has already added two TV spots to his credits: Kurt Braunohler’s new game show, Bunk, and John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show.
At a recent show at Red Star Bar, we heard a comic rue having to follow Che. It’s no surprise that his utterly comfortable disposition could discomfit fellow stand-ups; onstage, Che is a natural whose confidence belies his relatively few years in the medium. Often poised calmly with his arm resting on the mike stand, he leaves physical humor behind, mining social commentary and his own bizarre logic in equal measure. In one of his typical bits, he recounts a youthful episode with a friend he calls Homeless Dave. When he complains to Dave about his father’s lack of employment and having to eat government cheese, Dave puts things in perspective: “What? You eat dinner every day? You know your father? That’s awesome.… What the fuck is cheese?”
Hannibal Buress, the like-minded absurdist who frequently features Che on his Sunday showcase at the Knitting Factory, says, “When you watch [Che] onstage, it seems like he’s been doing it for much longer than he has. As long as he doesn’t try crack, he has a great future in comedy.”—IG