Keith Robinson Talks ‘Having 2 Strokes’ and Making a Netflix Special

Keith Robinson Talks ‘Having 2 Strokes’ and Making a Netflix Special

“I don’t like ‘aww,’” he told me, referring to the audience’s worried expressions. “I just want to laugh. ‘Aww’ annoys me. ‘Aww’ irritates me.”

Robinson doesn’t just brag. He’s concerned enough with cheap approval to make jokes that are designed to alienate, he said. If an audience member doesn’t laugh, point your cane at them and say, “Don’t you like disabled people of color?” A woman once responded by bursting into tears. The club paid for her ticket.

With the changes in his movements and speech, Robinson’s comedy has a new authority and rhythm. After extensive speech therapy, he can tell jokes, but he has to work harder to make himself understood. “Everything has to be more precise now,” he said, comparing his change to that of an athletic quarterback who can get out of trouble by becoming a small passer. “Everything matters. I can’t rely 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 up.”

Some of his funniest lines are brief, like when he asks God why he let these blows 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 far more debilitating than the first, Robinson briefly considered giving up acting and becoming a comedy writer. Chris Rock hired him to help with his recent special. But Robinson missed being on stage, hanging out with comedians, and most of all, “making an impact,” which, it’s fair to say, is his love language.