Monday, February 2, 2009

Chris Rock: Kill The Messenger

Few comedians reach the level of success that Chris Rock has achieved. He is the quintessential comic of our time and his most recent HBO special Kill the Messenger proves why he has stayed on top for so long. He opens his fifth HBO special (his first was way back in 1994) with sharp, insightful notes on politics and continues with material on relationships and work that is truly enduring. The special edition DVD set is extensive, including the HBO special along with a second digital copy and 3 full performances from: New York, London, and Johannesburg from his recent 141 date arena tour, which spanned four continents.

The special cuts together material from the 3 cities (often beginning a joke in one city and ending it in another)- something unprecedented in comedy. The editing between cities is often jarring and without a real purpose but at points it can also be poignant in showing how universal some sentiments are. Regardless, you have to give it up to Rock for being able to perform to such diverse and large audiences so well across the world. The DVD set is really interesting from the comedy science angle giving the audience an opportunity to see how Chris adds and subtracts jokes and how some jokes work in London but get booed in New York.

In terms of the comedy itself, this special is really effective because of the diversity of topics Chris has in his jokes. There are plenty of jokes about the election- Rock says John McCain was “too old 10 years ago” and Barack Obama is going to have it tough because a “black woman can’t be a first lady” but the best jokes are the ones that will last. Rock is terrific at illuminating the everyday truth in an interesting way such as when he compares people with jobs vs. people with careers pointing out how with a career “there’s not enough time in the day” and with a job “there’s too much time.” As always, Chris spends a good amount of time focusing on race and relationships- some of his most personal material. Having been married for a while, relationships is a topic Chris seems to understand fluently, pointing out how men “can’t go backwards in sex” and women “can’t go backwards in lifestyle.”

In all, the special keeps you laughing with thought provoking ideas in Chris’s famous aggressive cadence. It’s a showcase of a world famous comic at the top of his game and gives insight into the world we live in. Chris could have chosen to rest on his laurels like so many before him but he continues to produce classic comedic performances and Kill the Messenger stands up as one of them.

This is a review I originally wrote for Short and Sweet NYC

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