by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
I was excited to watch Chris Rock’s fifth HBO special, “Kill the Messenger,” which aired last night. But by the end of the 90-minute show, I was disappointed, as I was at the end of “Never Scared,” the comedian’s last cable effort. When Rock is stalking the stage and talking about race, politics and social issues, he is at his best: insightful, creative, and most importantly: funny as hell. But when he jokes about women and relationships, he comes off as pathological and bitter. Worse (since Rock is a comedian), the women/dating/marriage schtick is hackneyed and unfunny.
First, let me say, I’m not humorless. I’m not so wrapped up in political correctness about race or gender, that I can’t find humor in the taboo. My bias is toward nuanced, layered and dry comedy. I like comics who hide message and social critique and pokes at life’s absurdities among the punchlines. I like the off-kilter and the edgy. I hate broad comedy and don’t get slapstick. And while I find “clean” comedy boring, I lose patience with jokes that simply parrot stereotypes or offend simply for the sake of offending. And here’s a confession: I saw “Tropic Thunder” and loved it, even though I noticed all the things about it that people have found so offensive. So see, I laugh at stuff.
Back in the day, Chris Rock was one of my favorite comedians. The Chris Rock I like is the one who last night pointed out that while the handful of black people living in his tony New Jersey neighborhood (Eddie Murphy, Mary J. Blige) have exceptional careers, his white neighbor is a…dentist. Rock jokes that for a black dentist to make his way into that neighborhood, he’d have to invent teeth.
Another highlight of last night’s special was Rock’s thoughts on the 2008 presidential election. Barack Obama is so cool and calm, Rock says, you’d think he believes a black man getting the most votes is going to mean something. After all, society has been known to change the rules when black folks are playing the game. “Good you got the most votes. Too bad you lost. We don’t do it that way anymore.” Rock remains one of the few comedians who can kill with observations about race that move beyond the “white people do this; black people do that” tropes. Continue reading