A breath of fresh air in format, style and tone, “The Wayne Brady Show” is an enjoyable throwback to the days of Mike Douglas and Carol Burnett, dolled up with some improv and some killer impressions. Quick and breezy, Brady’s singing, dancing and comedic skills are on better display here than in his other show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” and he shines as one comic who doesn’t need a combination of blue material and slapstick to be funny.
First two episodes play back-to-back before show locks into its summertime home at 8:30 on Wednesdays. Writing comes from two teams but manages to feel consistent. In first half-hour, skits feature James Brown arriving on the scene to handle an emergency, a routine that could play out over an entire season and still be funny every time out. Second half puts Chris Rock on Broadway as the star of “Annie”; Brady (as Rock) bellows, “Why can’t it be Puff Daddy Warbucks?” — and that’s probably the least funny line of the bit.
Standard improv methodology — suggestions from the audience, two actors with assigned characters — yields some impressive results and some that are so-so. Even Justin Timberlake of ‘N Sync gets in on the act, twisting a love song into bizarre “Willy Wonka” territory. Only when the show decides to lean on a little physical comedy does it lose its step in the laughs department. Supporting cast is strong at every turn.
Brady flashes considerable vocal talents that make his impressions of singers (Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr.) seem trivial. He’s the rare talent who has found his voice at a young age (29) — he should stick with it.