Kevin waits at a bar for a date with a woman named Claire. Kevin’s tired of the dating scene, and especially of dealing with sometimes fraught complications of interracial dating.
When Claire walks in, she’s daffy and just a bit eccentric. But as Claire runs into a past boyfriend — and another one, and another one — it’s clear just what she sees in Kevin.
This fast-moving short comedy, directed by Sam Auster and written by actor Christopher T. Wood, explores how race bubbles up in an unexpected way when it comes to desire, dating and courtship. The narrative is essentially a long scene that takes a situation, builds up its assumptions and expectations and then upends them to funny, thought-provoking effect.
Many comedies especially lean on this “long scene” structure to explore a situation or pile upon a punchline, escalating the intensity to almost farcical effect. But what makes the set-up work here is the short’s smart, specific writing, which blends sharp characterization and quirky, witty detail to awkward yet hilarious effect.
Rather than playing the joke of the film as constant riffing on the same punchline, the structure and dialogue really drills down into Claire’s predilections. And while the pile-up is funny, the elongated structure also emphasizes Kevin’s building discomfort, reminding us of what it feels to realize you are, on some level, just an object in someone’s growing collection. The other men Claire has met are all smart, accomplished professionals — but Kevin still finds it disturbing to be “chosen” with an eye for his race as one of the primary considerations.
Wood’s performance of Kevin is the straight-man center of a constellation of escalating silliness, but his disbelief and shift into outrage also has a kernel of emotional truth to it. Watching him disappear as the frame fills with the other black men that Claire has collected is visually funny, but it’s also grounded in a reality that is uncomfortable.
Comedies often approach political issues through the lens of satire, but “Her First Black Guy” keeps things buoyant, fast-moving and briskly entertaining, becoming more and more outrageous after it flips expectations about Claire. Within the snappy dialogue, there are great lines and zingers (including a final one at the end by “Barack Obama”).
But it’s also a funny snapshot of modern dating, cross-pollinating and intersecting with the growing, changing dialogue and attitudes around race. Maybe in another film or genre, this intersection can be heartwarming, eye-opening or provocative, but in this one, the result is a little surreal, outrageous and very funny.