At first glance, Sam Morrison appears to be a familiar type: a millennial gay Jewish comedian of the Brooklyn hipster variety — tall and lanky, sporting a neatly cropped beard and a pearl choker, with look-at-me attitude to spare.
He storms the stage of the Soho Playhouse in his new one-man show, “Sugar Daddy,” with an energetic command that belies both his youth and the seriousness of his subject matter. (No, this is not going to be another show about the difficulty of finding an affordable apartment in Williamstown — or the indignities of Grindr hook-ups. Thank God.)
Within the first minute of his 65-minute routine, he divulges a triple whammy of personal trauma: He’s survived a mugging at gunpoint, received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and lost his boyfriend of three years to COVID.
From there, Morrison embarks on an artfully nonlinear exploration of those life-changing events — with digressions that can be both hilarious (like his account of gay institutions like queer poetry nights or the hook-up scene in Provincetown, Massachusetts) and surprisingly philosophical (“Death is not new — it’s not an NFT”).
His intelligence and wit really shine in his writing, as he scatters his material with pop culture references (skinny gays are “Chalamet-looking motherf—ers”) and slips in punchlines and callbacks where you least expect them.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a 28-year-old who is drawn to decades-older, hairier men (“I want a bear! You seen ‘The Revenant’?”), Morrison as a performer might be best described as the ultimate bossy bottom. He’s not only comfortable delivering shockingly raw personal information, but he seems to know where the laughs in his routine should land — and is willing to chastise an audience when they chortle in unexpected places (or, worse, respond with utter silence).
Still, his verbal delivery can sometimes veer into the shrill, an impediment that is unfortunately amplified by a headset mic (and sound system) that he probably doesn’t even need given the small size of the venue.
“Sugar Daddy” is an impressive achievement, and you can imagine some streaming service recording it for posterity and giving this young comic a well-deserved bigger platform. After all, performers like Tig Notaro and Hannah Gadsby have seen their careers blow up with routines that also appear to bypass the therapist’s couch for the standup stage.
And true to form, Morrison seems savvy about the dual edge of exploiting his private anguish for professional advancement. “I imagine the cure to grief is winning an Emmy,” he jokes at one point. “Because what is trauma, but unmonetized content?” It’s a pity that we all don’t have a similar outlet, or skill set, to work out our own issues.