Rapper and Now a Comedian? Vince Staples Tests His Luck in TV With New Show

“The Vince Staples Show” Netflix cover. Photo Courtesy of IMDb.

Donald Glover’s “Atlanta,” which aired in 2016, has set the tone for new-age comedy shows. It’s an impressive series not only for the unique style of humor it introduced to TV, but because it’s directed and written mainly by Glover, who is better known for being a rapper by the name of Childish Gambino.

Besides entertainers like Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, Glover is the first rapper to step out of the studio and into Hollywood. And since the release of his sitcom, “Atlanta” has earned the title of a 2010s classic.

So when I heard Long Beach-born rapper Vince Staples — who is known for being arguably the funniest guy in rap — was coming out with a five-episode Netflix series; I was curious to see if this would be a poor man’s “Atlanta” or something entirely new from the mind of Staples.

Not to let “Atlanta” take the spotlight away from “The Vince Staples Show,” but Glover’s creation is the standard so it’s hard not to compare the two. Immediately I noticed that for a TV show named after a guy, they didn’t give that main man as much screen time as you would expect. 

“Atlanta” hovers around Glover’s character, but “The Vince Staples Show” didn’t give Staples the bulk of the lines or screen time. It feels like the side characters’ interactions with Staples are over-prioritized, and Staples is far too unbothered by everyone.

As a viewer it made me doubt if I should be laughing or staring as blankly as Staples was in the show. From a cellmate in jail with Vince threatening to stab him, to a smart-mouthed concessions girl at a theme park; nothing cracked Vince and so it kept me from laughing.

I’ve seen interviews and other interactions with Staples, and the rapper is criminally funny. But in “The Vince Staples Show” his sarcasm and dry humor were too dull for me. Some moments had me laughing, but surprisingly those moments didn’t even include him.

Episode 3, “Brown Family,” was my personal favorite. The episode centers around a dispute over who made mac and cheese for the family cookout when Staples’ mom clearly signed up to bring it to the gathering. 

Staples’ mom, played by Vanessa Bell Calloway, is the funniest character on the show and proved it in this episode. She parades around the cookout interrogating anyone that crosses her path, and the sass, flare and temper she delivers her lines with is truly comedic.

Staples has his moments, like during the bank robbery scene or while in line for some chicken at a janky theme park. He had tears in the corners of my eyes while catching up with a childhood friend while the guy robbed the bank. His quick, witty lines were exactly what I hoped the entire show would be like.

The scene where he orders chicken at the theme park is an example of classic Staples humor. The concession worker asks if he wants dark or white meat, just to tell Staples they are out of both. Staples reacts in his trademark sarcastic style, and it ends up being one of the most iconic scenes in the short series that Staples wrote himself.

Ultimately, that’s what is important to remember here. While Staples doesn’t appear on camera or talk nearly as much as I would’ve hoped; he is the mastermind behind the show. Staples wrote a large majority of the series, and so the jokes from outside characters that top his are still from his mind.

“The Vince Staples Show” surely is no “Atlanta,” but it would be unfair to discredit Staples because he didn’t copy Glover. If anything we should be celebrating Staples for doing his own thing. “Atlanta” does certain things better, and if Staples is to land some more episodes from Netflix; I’d love to see him incorporate more of his music into the opening and ending credits, not treat every outside character as a fan of the rapper, and not give every character and interaction the cold shoulder when it would be the perfect opportunity for a punchline.

There’s plenty to improve on for Staples, but he proved his humor can be translated into a TV show. He’s undoubtedly got a creative mind, and the cinematography, colors and outfits display his artistic brilliance. 

Hopefully, this brief series blossoms into something larger, and Staples will be able to land bigger names in Hollywood and strengthen the plot some. For now, we’ll give Staples a pat on the back and cross our fingers in hopes that Netflix will let him continue to earn his stripes.