Everything about Lavell Crawford's stand-up comedy is big. His sizable stage presence. His larger-than-life personality. His animated facial expressions. His raspy voice, which occasionally sounds like a bullfrog that hopped out of a Southern swamp.
So it's ironic that his most recent claim to fame was playing Huell Babineaux, the quiet muscle of sleazy attorney Saul Goodman on the television phenomenon Breaking Bad.
Crawford's character often provided levity to the dark crime drama by not saying much at all, whether he was lying on a giant pile of cash or looking half-asleep standing guard, taking some seriously labored breaths.
"The funny thing is when you see a security guard getting paid minimum wage, that's exactly what he's doing," said Crawford, who comes to Lexington's Comedy Off Broadway this weekend.
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Unlike Huell, Crawford isn't just standing around doing nothing. He has been busy for quite a while.
He has racked up a bevy of TV appearances, performing stand-up on BET's Comic View, HBO's Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam and Showtime at the Apollo. But it was his second-place-finish on NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2007 that exposed his brand of comedy to a wider audience.
He eventually landed a half-hour stand-up special on Comedy Central before recording his one-hour special, Can a Brother Get Some Love?, in 2011 in St. Louis, his hometown. In his routines, Crawford's brutally honest, unfiltered observational humor and elaborate storytelling doesn't spare anyone, including himself.
"If I didn't say something about being a big guy, somebody else would bring it up," Crawford said. "You use what you've got. Every part of you is your strength. If you do it in your own words, it's hilarious."
Since his run on Breaking Bad, he has been afforded more opportunities, most notably a film role opposite Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in the action comedy American Ultra, set for release in 2015.
A lot of loyal fans come to his stand-up appearances who know him from his early work, but his roles on Breaking Bad and various other projects have diversified his fan base.
"I've had old white ladies who would call the police if they seen me in their neighborhood come up to me and say, 'I thought you were hilarious,'" Crawford said.
Unlike other comedians who use time on the road to fine-tune material for a potential hourlong special, Crawford has only a few bits that he's determined to try out. The rest is anybody's guess.
"This is a second helping of it. I've probably got a five-course meal I haven't let out of the bag yet," Crawford said. "When you're blessed with creativity, you don't want to worry about, 'Oh, I have to say these things.' I want it to be organic."
That being said, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t get a request at almost every stop to retell some of his older materials fans know and love. While he tends to let his old jokes remain in the past, he’ll occasionally oblige. For all the current and upcoming projects Crawford may have outside of stand-up comedy, he ultimately wants the laughs he gets on stage to be the highlight of his career.
“I get people requesting (jokes) like I’m an R&B group,” Crawford said. “That’s so complimentary. I would rather people know my jokes than know my name.”