There were a few motivations behind Lil Rel Howery’s debut HBO stand-up, Lil Rel Howery: Live In Crenshaw, but according to the Chicago native one of the biggest inspirations was his desire to incite a literal LOL. “I just want to give you something to laugh at,” says Rel, while seated backstage in a spacious greenroom minutes before the start of the screening event for his special.

Filmed inside a Los Angeles high school gymnasium, Live In Crenshaw was directed by Jerrod Carmichael, who Rel says convinced him to shoot the stand up in Crenshaw. “He just kept nagging me about it,” Rel reveals. “But when you see the way the [gym is] lit because of those huge windows, it reminded me of all the spots I used to perform at coming up. Then I thought it might be cool to represent that and not this thing where ‘I made it so I’m going to a theater!’”

Lil Rel Howery Live In Crenshaw HBO Screening Terrence J
Image via Nikki B

Having worked the underground comedy circuit all the way to Hollywood blockbuster films made the night’s screening event even more remarkable for Rel. “Can I just take a moment to take this in?” he said to the audience before the start of his stand-up. “This is surreal.”

Thursday night, (Nov. 21) HBO turned Neuehouse Hollywood’s swanky co-working space into a lavish movie theater for the live screening of Live In Crenshaw. As attendees filled in, they munched on buttered popcorn, sipped either a “Ginger-Rel” or "(312) to (323)" cocktails, and relaxed on black leather couches with plush throw blankets that filled the auditorium space and lined the walls.

Rel posed for photos and walked the red carpet with two of the show’s consulting producers: his daughter Brittni and son Judah. While speaking with the event’s host and close friend Terrence J, Rel revealed HBO’s willingness to let his children have production credits was why the network was the best fit for his stand up.

Lil Rel Howery Live In Crenshaw Screening Brittni And Judah Howery
Lil Rel Howery with son Judah and daughter Brittni. Image via Nikki B

Good times permeated throughout the screening as guests including Snowfall’s Damson Idris, Lenny S from Roc Nation, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Karen Civil (who gifted Rel and his children with Crenshaw T-shirts on behalf of Nipsey Hussle’s family) mingled. Laughter was heard all throughout Rel’s hilarious telling of his family woes, stories about his kids, and the time he saw Tito Jackson perform in Jamaica.

When asked if he’s concerned about Jackson’s response to his bit, Rel in true comedic (and Chicago fashion) replied: “Ain’t nobody scared of no damn Tito Jackson.”

Lil Rel Howery: Live In Crenshaw is airing now on HBO; check local listings for times.

Lil Rel Howery Live In Crenshaw Screening Karen Civil
Image via Nikki B
Lil Rel Howery Live In Crenshaw Screening Lenny S, Damson Idris
Image via Nikki B
Lil Rel Howery Live In Crenshaw Screening Tina Knowles-Lawson
Image via Nikki B