Chris Rock: Never scared, always funny

TVPreview

April 17, 2004|By Kevin D. Thompson | Kevin D. Thompson,COX NEWS SERVICE

There was a time when Chris Rock wasn't that funny.

During his three years on Saturday Night Live, Rock's talent was mostly wasted in the restricted format. Rock's true comic voice didn't emerge until 1996 when Bring the Pain, his first HBO special, aired.

In that career-defining special, the screechy-voiced comedian prowled the stage with a bug-eyed confidence like never before.

Watching Rock was like watching David Banner transform into The Hulk. On that night, Rock went from meek-looking joke teller to all-powerful Super Comic.

Today, of course, we all know how funny Rock is. He's one of the few comics who can make you laugh out loud and think at the same time as he riffs on hot-button subjects that most comics are afraid to touch: racism, politics, affirmative action and abortion.

It's been four long years since Rock's last television special. And he comes back with a vengeance with Chris Rock: Never Scared.

In this performance taped in Washington, Rock wastes no time tickling the funny bone. Fathering a child, for instance, is no big deal.

"Even roaches have kids," cracks Rock, who has a 20-month-old daughter and a second daughter due to arrive next month.

He also accuses the government of hating rap.

"They don't arrest anybody that kills rappers," he points out. "If you wanna get away with murder, all you gotta do is shoot somebody in the head and put a demo tape in their pocket."

To emphasize his point, Rock brings up the still-unsolved Tupac Shakur murder on the crowded Vegas strip.

"More people saw Tupac get shot than the last episode of Seinfeld," he rails.

While those jokes are funny, what really separates Rock's humor from just about every other comic working today is his ability to pick apart a prickly issue while making it funny in the process.

He talks about how whites are allowed to profit from pain - selling alcohol, guns and cigarettes - but blacks aren't afforded the same opportunity.

"The white man makes guns and nobody gives a [hoot]," he says. "Black rapper says gun - congressional hearings."

Then there's his spot-on analysis on the difference between being rich and being wealthy.

"Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal] is rich. The white man that signs his checks is wealthy."

There are some missteps in the special, though. Rock's bit on marriage goes on way too long. We get it - he's really bored and dying to cheat, but can't find many women who find him attractive. You have to wonder how much Rock's wife is laughing when he gets home after spending a good 20 minutes trashing their union.

And for a comic as intelligent as Rock, it's still disturbing to see him using so much profanity. Such funny stand-ups as Bill Cosby and Sinbad (whatever happened to him?) have shown that comedians don't need to string together a bunch of expletives to be funny.

Still, right now, there's no one funnier than Chris Rock.

Chris Rock: Never Scared

When: Tonight at 10

Where: HBO

In brief: Rocking the house with incendiary humor.

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