Highsnobiety did well to highlight his hilarious series of Instagram reactions to Avengers: Infinity War. But online entertainer LeanandCuisine, real name Casey Lawrence, deserves many more looks than that.
As I’ve done with Korporate and Lawrence’s good friend/collaborator Niles Stewart, I want to highlight how diverse and impressive Lean’s talents and content are. It’s one thing to make one video that goes viral. It’s another to be a master of making a particular type of content (e.g. GIF memes, vines, short sketches) go viral. But there aren’t many people that can do the same wild numbers with a one-shot sitcom sketch (e.g. Lean’s famous fast-food restaurant manager scenes) as they can with something as spontaneous as voice-over commentary of two wiener dogs thrashing a snake.
I’ve lauded other Black male online entertainers for being great at creating worlds for viewers to fully dive into. But while LeanandCuisine’s YouTube sketches hold their own, what sets Casey apart to me is pretty simple: he, by himself, is funny as fuck.
Lean makes a lot of content, but I think the following comedic skills are what make him exceptional: roasts, observational comedy, and his acting-directing one-two punch.
When Lean roasts
He’d prolly call it joanin’ being from the DMV. But like your favorite class clown—if you were blessed enough to attend public school or a private school in the city—Lean knows how to rip someone to shreds in a roast session. But what makes his jokes so great?
Exhibit A: mastery of the lookin’/face/built-ass joke structure
As I said in this personal classic of mine, the lookin’ ass joke is simple and does real damage if you know what you’re doing. Not only are Lean’s comparisons on-point and diverse, they’re juuust unrelated enough to make you pause before the punchline hits. He’s gotten so good at this form of roast that he doesn’t even have to say “lookin’/face ass” most of the time. The first part of his review of Thor in Avengers: Endgame is a perfect example:
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Avengers Endgame Spoiler Alert: oh man, Thor Albert . Notorious Thor. Thor Griffin. Thor-40. Had my man built like a lawn gnome for the entirety of that film. Had the abusive drunk step dad belly. They walked in on him and I thought his ass was Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. Bro was in there playing fortnite so I know he was going through it. I’m thinking once Thanos show back up or once he grab Stormbreaker the abs gon snap back in like a sailor moon transformation. Nah this nigga stayed built like Homer Simpson . I feel for Thor the most though, he lowkey got PTSD. Mans mom died, father left, brother died, sister tried to kill him, best friend and so many other asgardians got wiped out by Thanos. He took the most losses throughout the series in my opinion and was still going with his big ass. You know how depressed you gotta be to say fuck my sex appeal, bro was really stressing. Imma pour one out for the son of Odin and fuck noobmaster.
Exhibit B: pointing out the shit we thought but didn’t think to say
As said by Kyle Hodge in the Highsnobiety piece I linked to, Lean speaks subtle observations into life so forcefully you have to laugh. Look at his take on the softened Hulk in Avengers: Endgame after his Infinity Wars beatdown at the hands of Thanos:
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Endgame Spoiler Alert: I don’t even know where to start with this. Thanos beat this nigga into Bill Nye the Science Guy. Really beat my mans into a peaceful upstanding citizen. How you solve all of Bruce Banners problems with straight hands. That ass whooping sent Hulk to college to further his educational ambitions. Bro really went from talking like a cave man to speaking fully comprehensive sentences. Got some IQ beat into that ass. Thanos really turned Hulk into a man of the people, had him in a diner taking selfies with kids n shit. Boy that ass whooping was top tier severe to have done this to my boy. How the hell you beat the attitude problem right out a nigga. Bro got the anger management hands. Goddamn they did my boy hulk so dirty. Glassed his ass up so bad he said “fuck it imma cool out, I know niggas wrecking and I know niggas died, but peace may be the answer, maybe I been going about this anger shit the wrong way” turned his ass into Hulk Jobs.
When Lean speaks on something
The line between commentary and jokes in Lean’s content doesn’t really exist because comedy is his language of choice. That being said, Lawrence has a way of forcefully shining the light on things to maximize the humor in strange or everyday events. For example, the failure of every McDonald’s ever to keep an ice cream machine working.
McDonald’s Mangers be in the back like this pic.twitter.com/Qt4vYnHmAH
— Casey Lawrence (@LeanandCuisine) May 19, 2019
The trope of broken McDonald’s ice cream machines is common knowledge at this point. But Lean’s portrayal is so detailed, accurate, and creative it made me laugh a second, third, and fourth time at this fact.
The manager’s nervous energy and commitment to poor service. The drive-thru guy’s insistence that everyone asks about a damn McFlurry. The customer pulling up right on cue yelling, “Lemme get a McFlurryyyyy.” The dialogue, especially from the manager, is so imaginative it would still be impressive even if we found out Lean worked at a Mickey D’s once.
Where does someone come up with “cut the malarkey” as a catchphrase?
When Lean acts and directs
Defining great acting might even be more difficult than judging music. Actors don’t get Metacritic ratings for their performances and people can debate endlessly on what an actor’s duty in a particular role should be. That being said, there are still levels to this shit, and Casey Lawrence is as high up as any online comedian can be.
To me, Lean’s acting ability is set apart by his precision, subtlety, and like his other skills, his variety. Two of his best characters in recent memory are Melvin, the nerd always placed in unfortunate situations, and store manager at Chic-Fil-A—yes, even better than his McD’s manager. His commitment to these characters is remarkably professional and, considering the simplicity of the videos he plays these characters in, very convincing.
As much of a force as Lawrence is in front of the camera, his directing ability is his secret weapon. The lighting, soundtracks, camera angles and costume designs in any Lean sketch make Lawrence’s acting job very specific. Without fail, Lean hones in on the 1-2 characters he has to play and kills it. Watch how subtly he gives us layers of hood Godfather-ruthlessness and humor in this parody of a Chic-Fil-A manager’s daily business.
Chic-Fil-A Managers be in back like this pic.twitter.com/dCAVqpm6oK
— Casey Lawrence (@LeanandCuisine) November 19, 2018
- Lawrence and partner-in-crime Niles Stewart are expert-level at comedic fight choreography. Along with the acting in this sketch, peep the fight scene (cued up for y’all, just hit play):
- Lean does a good job in his sketches of shooting authority figures at upward angles (e.g. teacher, manager) and subordinates at lower angles (e.g. drive-thru employee, Melvin).
- He tweeted this recently, but I don’t think we’re fools to think he’s great at what he does. Seems like someone who takes his craft seriously and obsesses over what could improve instead of basking in praise. Long story short, this man is going places.
I’m a terrible actor
— Casey Lawrence (@LeanandCuisine) May 19, 2019
- Microsoft itself (yes, the company) waits in anticipation for livestreams of Lean gaming. Knowing how much the most popular gamers make, this is just another example in a long list proving Casey Lawrence is going to make it one way or another.
We have been waiting. 👀
— Microsoft Store (@MicrosoftStore) May 29, 2019
- That damn Steve Harvey mustache.
I hope people discover the talent that is LeanandCuisine/Casey Lawrence without him having to significantly water down his content. I wish him the best.