Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Chris Rock Is Funny. His HBO Special, Not So Much
I almost feel sorry for artists who gain a reputation for being edgy and genre-defining. The expectations are too high (See: Chappelle, Dave), and eventually, you're going to be accused of having lost the magic you had when you were younger and less famous. Which brings me to Chris Rock.
I've been a fan of Rock's for a long time, and I still enjoy hearing him riff on current events with Bill Maher and David Letterman. For years, MTV has been trying (and failing) to re-create the watercooler buzz generated by Rock's 2003 Music Video Awards hosting gig. Rock killed that night, deflating celebrity egos right and left with lines like, "Lower your IQs and lower your expectations! It's Kid Rock!" His last two comedy specials on HBO were ruthless, controversial and very, very funny. Who didn't wince a little when he said people could be either bored (married) or lonely (single)?
So I expected more of the same from his latest stand-up HBO special, "Kill the Messenger." While it wasn't exactly terrible (See: Cook, Dane), many of the jokes were dated and tired — two things I don't associate with Chris Rock. While he did make some funny observations about the presidential election, the race/relationship jokes were straight out of a 1992 "Def Comedy Jam" set. To sum it up:
• Black women sure are a pain in the ass!
• Black men like white women — especially big ones!
• That makes black women even angrier!
• If you're white, be really, really careful about using the N-word!
It isn't just me. My friend E. said that a few of her friends went to see Rock at Madison Square Garden, and the collective verdict was, "Meh." My friend V., who saw the special before I did, pronounced the whole thing "irritating."
The thing is, Rock is still quite capable of bringing the funny. He just didn't do it in this special. Consider some of the zingers from his recent "Larry King" appearance:
•"Jason Lee has done more interviews promoting 'My Name Is Earl' than [Sarah Palin] had to run for vice president of the United States."
• "[Sarah Palin is] kind of like Kim Kardashian on 'Dancing With the Stars.' All that ass and you can't shake it!"
• "Bin Laden did more movies last year than Sam Jackson. I think he's in 'Lakeview Terrace.' "
Heck, just watch it here. His "Letterman" spot, following Bill Clinton, is here.