Balancing the Outlandish with the Authentic

Lousy Weather Media releases Dwayne Duke’s “Shame Flashbacks”

by Ted Zep

Dwayne Duke is a man who lives life from microphone to microphone. Originally from Cleveland, the comedian has spent much of his career touring the Midwest and Florida plying his craft. In November of 2017, he recorded his upcoming release, Shame Flashbacks, at the gorgeous Rialto Theatre in Akron, Ohio.

Filtering anecdotes of his travel experiences around the country through the specific lens of a talented black, gay male in his late-20s, the album is composed of a collection of witty observations of life in America, circa 2018.

Duke shines brightest when narrating stories of the road. Whether recounting the awkwardness of being walked in on by a hotel housekeeper during a during a rather salacious one-night-stand in New York City, or living in a dumpy apartment in Las Vegas while remaining perennially drunk and facetiously being mistaken for a male escort, he doesn’t shy away from a good yarn.

Duke clearly gets a charge from shocking the audience. He has a cheeky charm and wit that allows him to deliver bawdy material without it feeling particularly prurient. He handily skips from a bit that warns men against sending d*** pics, to one in which he tells a tawdry tale about grabbing a police officer’s crotch, and yet a third about reading a romance novel that includes a scene involving a particularly, erm, ”invasive” sex act.

But there is still a part of him, the non-performer, which remains. He tells a crazy story about going to a strip club and having an insane encounter with five strippers. He plays the story for big laughs but doesn’t hesitate to state that he really dislikes strip clubs as a rule. And to the listener, it rings true.

Duke also mines gold from more somber material, as well. For instance, his piece about going in for a routine blood test plays succinctly off the nervous energy that anyone feels when they go in for such a procedure. The bit builds until he ends it with a sharp left turn that is borne both of comedy (and relief). It’s the tension in such bits that give his set pacing and flow. He balances the outlandish with the authentic.

Though he says it with a laugh, Duke reveals that he would be horrified to marry a dentist, drive a Prius and shop at Gap — in essence, to be “average.” It’s fair to say that most people don’t strive to be mundane, but that rarely comes up in daily conversation. It’s something of which is scarcely spoken. There is a certain amount of bravery required to admit it. Memorable comedy springs from the cross section of honesty, good storytelling and charisma. Duke got the mix right.

While Dwayne Duke deserves the lion’s share of credit for the strength of the album, two other factors must certainly be acknowledged, the first of which being the Rialto Theatre. It is a small, hip venue located in the Kenmore neighborhood in the Southside of Akron. With a maximum capacity of fewer than 100, the room has a warm, frenetic energy to it. Owners Nate and Seth Vaill have created a supportive, dynamic space that allows for not only comedy, but music and live theater to thrive in a fertile environment. The Rialto is unquestionably one of the best kept secrets in Northeast Ohio, for now.

Secondly, the engineering staff of Lousy Weather Media and the individual in charge of mixing and mastering, Sean Ast. Comedy albums are astoundingly fragile propositions. Even when material and performance are on-point, if the vibe and temper of the room is lost in translation from microphone to tape, the project suffers. LWM and Ast did a notable job capturing the atmosphere and vigor of the room to the benefit of Duke.

“Shame Flashbacks” is an album that fires on all cylinders. Dwayne Duke mixes strong material and a magnetic performance to produce a raunchy and brash set of memorable comedy. The tone and content blend seamlessly to produce Duke’s thoroughly modern comic vision.

“Shame Flashbacks” will be available for purchase starting March 16 at

Dwayne Duke can be found at

(Photos courtesy of Lousy Weather Media)


Ted Zep grew up listening to Sam Kinison, Lenny Bruce and LaWanda Page. Fozzy Bear is his hero. He can be found daily at