. . . Monday April 19, 2004

Hip Hop Rock

Chris Rock’s latest live show to grace the airwaves courtesy of the programming gods at HBO was not his best effort. But it was great and Rock, while not knocking us out like he did with Bring the Pain, certainly won an easy and unanimous decision to retain his belt as the champion stand-up comic of the world.

In this special we see a much more overtly political Chris Rock (although his prior material was political, just without the label). He makes some great points, brings up some topics a lot of people prefer to ignore and remains funny (if a bit uneven) throughout even his most political moments. But even Rock knows his best stuff is about relationships:

“I try to get a lot of relationship stuff in there, ’cause I think that’s what sells the seats. The politics gets a lot of attention, but without the relationship stuff I’d be at Caroline’s playing to 320 people.”

Rock is probably selling himself a bit short there. Much of his political humor is dead-on and works both comedically and in terms of a message. The performance only becomes uneven when Rock loses his voice and starts to expound on issues that seem unnatural for him (partisan politics?). You sense whether the stuff came from his basement where he does most of his writing or from other place where a voice inside him (perhaps a duet between Oprah and Richard Pryor) says, “I should be talking about this stuff.” But the slow moments are few are far between and Chris Rock has reminded us once again that he is clearly the best stand-up comedian of his era.

And although he would surely hate the description, in these times of FCC crackdowns and challenges to the patriotism of everyone who asks a question, he is also our most important comedian.

Concentration is important!