They Got Jokes
Kings of Comedy Rule in Their On-Screen Gig
Since 1997, there's been this thing called the Kings of Comedy tour, featuring comedians Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac. This large-venue tour has pulled in about $37 million since it started--making it the highest-grossing comedy tour ever--but chances are that unless you're an African-American you've never heard anything about it, because the performers are African-Americans who have had limited amounts of that oh-so-important "crossover" exposure.
All that is gonna change, because in the tradition of Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip, Eddie Murphy's Raw, and Martin Lawrence's You So Crazy, Mr. Harvey, Mr. Hughley, Mr. Mac, and, uh, Mr. the Entertainer are bringing their comedy-jokes show to a theater near you, with a little help from Spike Lee. All due respect to Lee, but the success of this flick rests solely on the power of the performances. They could have hired a blind, deaf Ku Klux Klan grand dragon to direct this sucker, and it would still be the funniest goddamn movie we've seen in years. And no, it's not The Impostors or anything like that. Kings is lowbrow stuff, but it's much funnier than all this Dumb and Dumber and Something About Mary crap that's been floating around lately in the big porcelain bowl of movie comedy and raking in all the dough.
It's a concert film, so you get a little behind-the-scenes and before-the-big-show stuff with the comics, though you don't need it. There's some definite we're-not-laughing-with-you, we're-laughing-at-you material involving the fashion and hairdo choices of some audience members posing for photos with emcee Steve Harvey before the show kicks off. Harvey slides his act in before and between the other performers and keeps the audience loose with his vocal lack of appreciation for hip-hop music, his contempt for sports figures who aren't so hot at evading the law, and a lot of audience-participation bits involving old-school R&B, circa 1974. Anyone familiar with Harvey from Showtime at the Apollo or The Steve Harvey Show might be a little surprised to hear him drop the F-bomb so much, but anyone who can't deal with the F-bomb needs to sit home and watch Touched By an Angel or something.
"But wait," you say. "I can handle the F-bomb, but if I'm gonna drop $7.50 for a four-act stand-up comedy show (which I know is a bargain), where are the dick jokes?" Not to worry. This movie is rated R for a good reason--they ran out of Xs. There are dick jokes and pussy jokes and sex jokes and lack-of-sex jokes and white-folks jokes and the-difference-between-white-folks-and-black-folks jokes and, above all, black-folks jokes, lots and lots of black-folks jokes. And we got a personal-trainer-strength abdominal workout from cackling at them all.
D.L. Hughley covers all those bases plus the "being married" territory, and then goes right across the front row of the audience and makes with the Don Rickles action. He kids because he loves, and the audience eats it up, even the guy who gets busted for wearing a Members Only jacket. Ouch. The least funny guy on the card is Cedric the Entertainer. He's still funny, but look, someone has to be the least funny, OK? However, when Cedric busts out the goofy break-dancing moves, he's, well, entertaining.
The closer, the finale, from the inimitable Bernie Mac, who's funny just standing there, puts a politically correct speed bump in our good time via a little guilt-trip detour with painful stuff about his aunt's kid who has a profound stutter, and a bit about having to raise his drug-addicted sister's three devil-children. Mac's raison d'être is "jokes is jokes," and he advises the audience he's going to say the things no one else will say, the things people think but dare not speak aloud--like, for example, that his 6-year-old nephew is a "faggot." He's right. We ain't gonna say that. The Mac Man says it three times, and it's not like we were keeping score or anything. We were just hoping he would find another word or that each time he said it would be the last, so we wound up counting them. Yikes. He also goes off about being totally in favor of beating on children to control them, but at least he admits he is terrified of his sister's 2-year-old. Wow. We've determined we are going to roast in The Bad Place for many reasons, one of them now being the fact that we were laughing as we were wincing at this stuff. Yeah, if there's a Comedy Hell, you know they got a helluva show. We'll be there all week. For eternity.