Pineapple Express FINALLY comes out this week, and I hope that when it does, it’s able to make more of a star out of Craig Robinson. I really hope that he is the next one to be anointed out of the Judd Apatow comedy factory, because he’s arguably Apatow’s (and Greg Daniels’) funniest supporting player.
The current issue of KING Magazine has the first feature article I’ve seen so far on Craig Robinson, which it advertises as “Meet The Funniest Guy In The Office, Pg. 94.” All due respect to Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, the guy who plays Kevin, and everyone else on that stellar TV show – but I happen to agree with that tag.
Also, I agree that the article is on page 94.
Craig Robinson is best known, if at all, from The Office, as Darryl, the deadpan warehouse foreman who is a constant foil to Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and to Michael’s inept attempts at relating to the black experience. Yes, Darryl is the one who taught Michael “phrases to help with his interracial conversations.” “Things us Negroes say” like “Going Mach 5,” “Fleece it out,” and “dinkin flicka.”
But what makes Robinson so funny, in my opinion, isn’t just the friction between this big black guy who’s smarter than he’s credited bouncing up against these neurotic and overly race-conscious little white dweebs who cross his disappointed gaze. That routine is always funny, but I think this guy’s comedy goes even beyond matters of race.
Before The Office and before being drafted onto the Apatow farm team, Craig Robinson was a stand-up comic, and his stuff is well worth seeking out. (But that’s between you and YouTube.) My favorite bit he does is when he offers to perform a song that his girlfriend’s retarded brother likes to sing, as long as the audience promises to be open-minded and considerate enough. What ensues, I surely won’t spoil, but it shows that the comedian knows exactly the line between wrong and hilariously exactly right.
A lot of his stand-up centers around his keyboard, where he sits in front of the tiny instrument, dwarfing it with his stout frame, and sings tender love songs with lyrics of diametrically opposed lyrical content. He’s brought out the keyboard a few times on The Office too, but not that often – the show is really good about enlisting Robinson as a DH, giving him a couple killer scenes every few episodes. That way his unique comic talent is consistently a happy surprise. Robinson knows exactly how to use and undercut his 1970s-Jim-Brown-on-doughnuts physique and voice with irony and wit.
So far, as far as I know, this secret weapon of comedy has only been deployed on movie screens once, in Knocked Up. (He also appears briefly in Walk Hard and D-War, funny enough, but not as memorably.) His scene in Knocked Up is – outside of the Cirque-Du-Soleil-on-mushrooms sequence – the funniest scene in that movie. That’s where Robinson plays the bouncer who drops the tough act momentarily, as he confidentially admits the following to a lady whom he has barred from a club for being too old: “It’s not that you’re not hot. I would LOVE to tap that ass. I would TEAR that ass up. But I can’t let you in because you old as fuck… for this club. Not… you know… for the earth.” Funny enough dialogue on the page, but it’s Robinson’s professionally-practiced ominous, yet mournful and sensitive, delivery that makes it play so perfectly.
In Pineapple Express, Robinson gets his biggest supporting role to date, and knocks it out goddamn straight of the park. He plays one of a pair of hitmen (with Kevin Corrigan from The Departed) who is pursuing Seth Rogen & James Franco’s characters with intent to do harm. Of this soon-to-be-classic movie I will reveal nothing more, only that I was lucky enough to see it twice in previews earlier in the year and I am hardcore-hoping that the scene where Robinson and Corrigan interrogate Danny McBride made the final cut. That scene quietly shows how funny Robinson really is, physically and verbally. Keep an eye out.
In the KING article, Robinson suggests that he’s looking for a more high-profile position in the Apatow rotation, and I really hope that works out for him. There’s never been a sensibility much like his before in film comedy – a convincing tough guy who’s happiest being funny – and I for one would welcome seeing more of it.
P.S. Do I need to justify admitting in a public forum that I purchased an issue of KING Magazine, a.k.a “the illest men’s magazine ever”? I’m not sure.
I reckon not. Outside of having to justify purchasing a “men’s magazine,” (I was on a magazine-buying rampage and I admit I like pictures of pretty girls as much as I like informative journalism), in my opinion I might as well pick one up whose cover lists these actresses:
Meagan Good, Lauren London, Gabrielle Union, Paula Patton, Sanaa Lathan, Sweet Kerry Washington, Jessica Lucas, and Eva Mendes.
I will take any one of those ladies, any day of the week, over those fake-boobed, no-assed and no-boobed, fake-ass girls from The Hills who are on the cover of every other available magazine. The entertainment industry ought to lend a profile instead to girls who look like they eat every once in a while and probably have other interests besides staring into a camera. And I ought to point it out occasionally. Call it a crusade.
Or maybe I simply needed to justify my heterosexual inclinations after writing an article like a publicist with a man-crush.