The Original Kings of Comedy Jan 6, 2021 12:50:39 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 6, 2021 12:50:39 GMT -5
The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
Directed by: Spike Lee
Directed by: Spike Lee
Harvey, Cedric, Bernie, and Hughley: your Kings of Comedy.
I thought it be wise to entire 2021 laughing, and on that note, it was an equally wise decision to kick off the year with Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy. At the dawn of the new millennium, the "Kings of Comedy" was one of the top acts in the United States, selling out arenas as the quartet of comedians took their talents across the country. The royal group in question is comprised of Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac — all of whom having gone on to have successful careers, despite Mac's being cut far too short.
Comprised of two shows filmed at the Charlotte Coliseum in North Carolina, the opening set involves Harvey riffing on athletes (namely Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth, who made headlines for the wrong reasons during that time) and even the audience members. Harvey has this tremendous comic ability where he can call out folks in the first couple rows, coming ever-so-close to roasting them in front of thousands before breaking out a devilish grin to the sound of riotous laughter. It's Richard Pryor-esque in his deftness at handling a room.
Next up is D. L. Hughley, best known for the ABC sitcom The Hughleys at the time. Hughley's routine is relatable and observant as he tries to outline the reasons why black people are not the thrill-seekers white people are. For black people, he explains, doing ordinary activities without drawing attention or causing scorn is difficult enough; why bungee-jump off a bridge? It's too close to lynching for comfort in his eyes. There's a little spirit of Chris Rock in these moments. Hughley's bits reminded me of Rock's commentary about why few black people go on the reality show Survivor. If you know, you know.
Cedric the Entertainer had a modest moment in the mid-aughts as the star of numerous comedy vehicles (The Honeymooners, Johnson Family Vacation, and Code Name: The Cleaner (whether you want to remember that one or not). On stage, however, he feels much more at home; one bit has him hypothesizing how a black president would react to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He too outlines the difference between "hoping" and "wishing." White people "hope" that nothing goes wrong in day-to-day life, Cedric explains, while black people "wish" someone would start trouble so that they can retaliate with the appropriate response or action.
Finally, there's Bernie Mac, whose performance takes on a bit of poignancy knowing that he'd pass away just eight years after the release of this film. Mac's number definitely helped the film earn a spot on the chuckle-inducing list of features who use the word "fuck" with the utmost frequency. His monologue about the meaning of "motherfucker" greatly aids the project in this feat. Moreover, Mac tackles familial issues as well, discussing how he manages his kids' different personalities and bluntness (wonder where they get it from). Mac talks a mile a minute, impressively fluid and never boring.
The Original Kings of Comedy makes me long for the days when theatrical comedy specials were mostly an annual treat and often brought out the best in their performers. Think about it: Eddie Murphy Raw, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (one of my favorite comedy specials), Dyfunktional Family, and Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie all accentuated the strongest traits of their headliners. That said, it's wonderful to see this comedy quartet's contributions immortalized in a feature length film, even if it maybe, just maybe, a hair too long.
NOTE: The Original Kings of Comedy is available to stream on a number of different subscription-based platforms, including Hulu, Showtime, and Sling TV.
Starring: Steve Harvey, D. L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac. Directed by: Spike Lee.