Comedian Ian Lara is more than just a “little man with pretty ass eyebrows,” as a guy he accidentally cuckolded once called him. The native New Yorker takes to the stage in his new HBO special, Romantic Comedy, with a charming balance of confidence and self-deprecation that wins over soon-to-be fans.
Lara is casually self-assured during the 38 minute-long set, the type of easy presence that’s earned over years of performing. While he doesn’t go for any over-the-top physical comedy or vocal changes, Lara has the natural timing of a born comedian. He eschews crowd work, but even when he sticks to his routine, his delivery still makes everything feel off-the-cuff.
In case the title didn’t tip you off, Romantic Comedy (directed by fellow comedian Aida Rodriguez) mostly centers around the minutiae of modern dating (sex updates, birth charts, you name it) with some detours into pandemic life and what vacation was like as the son of Dominican immigrants. The way Lara discusses current sexual politics—as he sees it, women are in control of the dating sphere while men want to settle down—seems like the type of stance that could quickly devolve into incel territory, but thankfully he’s too clever for that. Instead, Lara calls out men’s inflated confidence and posits that the reason women seem to get over men so quickly is because they can meaningfully discuss relationships together (“You ever had a good conversation with a man about anything?”). Sure, it may seem a bit heteronormative, but that’s where Lara’s coming from, and he avoids most of the major pitfalls of other straight guy comedians.
Where Lara really thrives, though, are moments of specificity. His stories about going on a cruise with his male best friend and why his late mom was a badass are far more compelling than generalizations about modern romance. His half-hour special on Comedy Central, Growing Shame (currently available for free on YouTube), is full of personal anecdotes like these; tidbits about buying stock and what makes born-and-bred New Yorkers different aren’t just funny, but also make you feel like you’re getting to know the man behind the mic. Romantic Comedy would benefit from falling a bit closer to his Comedy Central set. This critique is also a compliment, though; both sets are entirely different (Growing Shame was filmed in 2021) despite touching on some similar subjects, which just speaks to Lara’s talent as a joke writer. No doubt about it, he’s prolific.
You’d be hard pressed not to fall in love with—or at least develop a crush on—Lara’s humor after watching Romantic Comedy.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.