Keith Robinson talks Having 2 Strokes and making a special on Netflix

Keith Robinson talks Having 2 Strokes and making a special on Netflix
Keith Robinson talks Having 2 Strokes and making a special on Netflix

“I don’t like ‘aww,’” he told me, referring to the audience’s worried expression. “I just want to laugh. “Aww” bothers me. ‘Aww’ grates on my spirit.

Robinson doesn’t just brag. He’s worried enough about getting cheap approval for making jokes intended to alienate, he said. If an audience member doesn’t laugh, he points the cane at them and says, «Don’t you like black handicapped people?» Once a woman responded by bursting into tears. The club paid for her ticket.

With changes in movement and speech, Robinson’s stand-up has a new gravitas and rhythm. After extensive speech therapy, she can tell jokes but has to work harder to make herself understood. “Now everything has to be more precise,” he said, likening his shift to that of an athletic quarterback who can get out of trouble by becoming a small passer. “Everything matters. I can’t depend on movement.”

Wanda Sykes, an old friend from before they moved to New York around the same time, took him on tour with her when he returned to the stage for the first time in 2022. She said via email that his material had become more personal: “ It opened.

Some of his funniest lines are short, like when he asks God why he let these strokes happen to him. He stops, gives a look that suggests a life of casual sin, and says, “Oh yeah.”

After his second stroke, which was much more debilitating than the first, Robinson briefly thought that he should give up acting and become a comedy writer. Chris Rock hired him to help with his recent special. But Robinson missed being on stage, hanging out with comics and, above all, “making an impression,” which, it’s fair to say, is his love language.