Ian Lara's "Romantic Comedy" Proves Comedians Can Be Off-the-Cuff and Still Keep Up With the Times

Ian Lara's "Romantic Comedy" Proves Comedians Can Be Off-the-Cuff and Still Keep Up With the Times

We’ve all probably heard the saying “growth and comfort can’t ride the same horse.” And in the comedy world, there are way too many OGs who refuse to evolve — we all know who they are. The truth is, what we find funny does change over the years — like it or not — because we are always evolving as a society. Good comedy is able to take a clever stab at something very relevant. That’s no easy task in today’s cultural climate, and yet rising comedy star Ian Lara has managed to strike the right chord when it comes to mastering it.

In Lara’s HBO Max special, “Romantic Comedy” (directed by fellow comedian Aida Rodriguez), released on Nov. 11, the 32-year-old beautifully finesses the perfect balance of poking fun at modern dating — never getting cringy about it — and sexual politics. His perfect comedic timing, storytelling specificity, and ability to bring in personal anecdotes to avoid overgeneralizing are precisely what speak to his talent as both a comic and a writer. And it’s precisely what’s going to get him far in the comedy game.

Lara’s 38-minute set starts with life during the pandemic lockdowns and touches on growing up in New York City as a kid of Dominican immigrant parents. Eventually, he gets to the heart of the show — love, sex, and modern dating. As strategic as the special comes across, Lara admits he didn’t necessarily foresee modern dating being the main theme. He just got to writing it last year.

“I was writing the jokes, and I was writing the act, and when I looked back at it, I was like, this is a lot of modern dating stuff,” he tells POPSUGAR. “And when it started taking form where it was like, well, you know, I’m in my early 30s, and I’m single, and I know this is like a point in my life. I don’t know if this will be forever. I plan one day to probably be married and have a family, but I wanted to make a special that captured this point in my life because it’s a point in everyone’s life when you’re in your 30s and you’re dating and you’re trying to figure it out.”

“It’s all tongue in cheek — like I’m making fun of men. I’m making fun of women and how quickly they move on and how empowered they are. I’m just making fun of everything.”

Lara admits that he saw the special as a fun opportunity to mock and poke fun at some of the nuances that come with dating today. “It’s all tongue in cheek — like I’m making fun of men. I’m making fun of women and how quickly they move on and how empowered they are. I’m just making fun of everything,” he says, adding that it was his humorous way of shedding light on how the dating playing field has leveled out over the years.

It’s hard not to laugh out loud and appreciate Lara’s views on today’s dating spheres. His delivery is clever enough that no party comes out looking like the villain. But if anything, he portrays women as empowered and men as struggling to adjust to today’s cultural shifts — and it’s funny because he’s not wrong.

“It’s because women don’t settle anymore. No, that was back in the day when you could trick a beautiful woman to marry you on discount,” he jokes as the crowd laughs in the special. “She didn’t know what was out here. She thought you were the best that she could do. She didn’t know. Now they know. Thanks a lot, Instagram. You ruined it. You ruined it for everybody. They don’t want to settle down anymore.”

And while there are moments where the jokes can come off self-deprecating or even like he’s complaining, he’ll throw in a line that alludes to him being all for the change: “Women, y’all control dating now. You’re in charge. Which is fine. We had a good run. Ten-thousand years. It was good. It was fun.” Lara says this is all meant to be relatable to an audience who’s also recognizing cultural shifts.

“If you’re in the dating scene, you get why I have a joke that women control dating today.”

“If you’re in the dating scene, you get why I have a joke that women control dating today,” he says. “If you’re going on dates, you understand that women are leveling up for sure.” While there are still “machista men” and “feminist women,” he says, more people on the whole are realizing that things should “be more evenly split.” Lara has been getting a lot of recognition since the special, but he’s no overnight success. He’s been in the New York City standup scene for more than a decade now; he started off doing and hosting open mics and eventually started scoring paid gigs at reputable spots like NYC’s Comedy Cellar, which has featured famous comics like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and more.

Lara didn’t always have his heart set on being a comedian, even though he was the kid in class who was either going to distract you with jokes or make you the butt of one. But then, in 2008, a girlfriend took him to a live taping of Rock’s HBO special “Kill the Messenger” at the Apollo.

“I saw it live and was like, this is the coolest thing in the world,” he says, sharing that this is when the wheels really started to turn for him. “I was more like, this is what I would like to do, not, this is what I’m gonna do. I don’t know, I’m a real practical, grounded person.”

It was around 2010 that Lara decided to start making some moves toward pursuing comedy. As he tells it, he literally got on Google one day and searched “How to become a comedian.” In those days, he’d attend open mics while studying for the LSAT. His plan was to become a lawyer if the comedy stuff didn’t pan out. But after three years in the comedy world, he had already landed a manager and was doing paid shows.

A decade after putting in the work, he was taping a set for Comedy Central’s “Stand-Up Featuring,” which eventually garnered millions of views. He later appeared in NBC’s “Bring the Funny” and made his late-night television debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2019. He performed his first 30-minute special in 2020 for HBO Latino’s “Entre Nos: LA Meets NY” and in 2021 was selected as one of Freeform’s Young, Black, and Freeform Honorees.

It’s been quite the journey, and the road to success hasn’t always been easy. Lara was dealing with hardships in his personal life when things really started to take off for him. His mother was sick with cancer in 2021. Taking care of her became his number one priority, he says.

“When I filmed the Comedy Central thing, that was in July 2021. My mom had gotten sick in July 2021. It was literally the same month,” he shares. “When I filmed that, that was like a really tough time because I was taking care of my sick mom during the daytime and doing comedy at night.” His only method of coping with it was compartmentalizing. “At that point, it was like 90 percent of my time was going to my mom and the rest [of my time] I would just do comedy to stay sane.” Lara was filming for Comedy Central in July 2021. His mom passed away at the end of October 2021, and the special was finally released in January 2022.

“She didn’t get an opportunity to see that, so when it came out, it was bittersweet, because I had the billboard but I was dealing with the loss of my mom.”

“She didn’t get an opportunity to see that, so when it came out, it was bittersweet, because I had the billboard but I was dealing with the loss of my mom.” As a tribute to his late mother, Lara made sure to shout her out in “Romantic Comedy.” He was actually slated to film the special in November 2021, but his mom passed shortly before. “So a week prior to filming, I had to be like, ‘Guys, I can’t do this. I’m not prepared to do this,'” Lara says. “That was like a big thing, but HBO was super cool. They were like, ‘We understand. We’ll push it back. We’ll do it when you’re ready.’ So we ended up filming that July 2022.”

A few months after his mom’s passing, he was able to hit the road and work on the material for the special. “It worked out, for the special at least. It turned out to help me, the fact that we were able to push it back,” he adds. “And we filmed that in July and we got Aida Rodriguez on board, and working with her was just the absolute best.”

Lara says that even with the success of his HBO Max special, he remains grounded in everything that he does — something he learned from his Dominican mom. In terms of what he wants people to take away from “Romantic Comedy,” his request is quite simple.

“I just want people to think I’m funny, to be honest,” he says modestly. “If you’re like me or you’re at a point in life like me or you’ve been through a point in your life like mine, I want you to relate to it and feel like there’s a comedian that’s talking and acknowledging a part of you or an experience that you’ve experienced.”

Oh, and one more thing he wants people to take away? “Come see me when I’m in your city.”

Image Source: Loshak PR

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