Stream It Or Skip It: 'Ian Lara: Romantic Comedy' On HBO Max, Would You Swipe Right On This Comedian Based On His Profile Of Jokes? – Decider

Stream It Or Skip It: 'Ian Lara: Romantic Comedy' On HBO Max, Would You Swipe Right On This Comedian Based On His Profile Of Jokes? – Decider

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Ian Lara is a New Yorker born from Dominican immigrants who, as he hits his 30s and remains single, has more than a few thoughts about men, women, and romance in and out of the pandemic. So, no, Romantic Comedy isn’t a rom com, per se. But his solo HBO Max debut might serve as his meet-cute for America?
The Gist: Ian Lara’s star has been on the rise since 2019, when he made his TV debut on NBC’s comedy competition, Bring The Funny.
Lara has performed twice on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and earlier this year released a half-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central’s YouTube channel. In between, Lara shared a half-hour HBO Latino special with Chris Estrada called Entre Nos: LA Meets NY. Estrada has gone on to create and star in his own Hulu series, This Fool. Lara, meanwhile, earned himself a promotion from the folks at HBO Max with his own special, presented by Entre Nos and directed by comedian Aida Rodriguez.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: Whereas his talk of therapy may bring to mind Chris Redd’s very recent HBO Max special (Why Am I Like This?), Lara’s giving me vibes as if he’s more the young Dominican version of Keith Robinson, whom you might not immediately remember unless your memory goes back to the Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn era.
Memorable Jokes: The first part of Lara’s special doesn’t dabble much in romance, at all; rather, he’s laser-focused on how the pandemic impacted our social skills and our travel habits.
As to the former, Lara’s advice to “wear your outfits as soon as you get them” leads into a chunk about how his impatience in self-quarantine prompted him to break out his pea coat and other fine threads in a variety of scenarios which allows you to imagine how out of place he might have looked in the summer of 2020.
As to the latter, by observing about how some of us have overcompensated since the pandemic isolation by traveling more extravagantly, it allows Lara to both mock the newest global tourists while also contrasting it with his upbringing as a child of immigrants — his vacations felt more like an episode of Scared Straight, with parents showing kids the worst part of their home countries “to show you what your life could be like.”
But as the title suggests, the bulk of this 38-minute special focuses on jokes about how much sex and dating has changed in recent years for single Millennials and Gen Z. All of which circles back around when Lara tells the tale of going on a cruise with his best friend, and how that backfired on them. Or did it?
Our Take: It’s unusual for a stand-up comedian to release two different specials in the same year for two different streaming platforms, but 2022 has made for strange times in comedy.
Perhaps it’s not merely unsurprising that Lara followed up his half-hour Comedy Central special in February with only 38 minutes here and now on HBO Max, but also prudent that he kept it well short of an hour. Other comedians might have felt pressured to deliver an hour, or through their own ego stretched the performance to fit. But nothing about Lara’s stage presence or demeanor suggests he’s either pressured or too in his own head about anything.
So when Lara digs in for his takes on how men and women are different in approaching relationships with one another, he can hone in on his own particular point of view on the matter without resorting to jokes that feel too hackneyed on the subject. Exhibit A: How younger generations have suddenly begun introducing regular updates to sexual expectations. Exhibit B: His intuitively clever counterpoint to women who employ astrology to inform their dating decisions.
Lara also finds insight in exploring how his fellow men are too selfish to offer each other advice, and too confident for their own good (except to inspire others). That his closing bits aren’t even his closer is quite telling about his own confidence in his material. Another comedian might have ended on an applause break regarding his cruise or his worries about dying while texting and driving. But by finding both humor and grace in the recent death of his Dominican mother, Lara not only proves himself a good son, but also a worthy comedian by wrapping up his special in a tidy bow.
Our Call: STREAM IT. No matter how much you knew about Lara before reading this, consider watching him like a blind date or a first date with a new comedy interest. If you like what you see, there’s more to come. But if you don’t, then this wasn’t too much of a commitment to make in the first place. Either way, he’s worth at least a look.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.
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