3 items from 2000
The New York Times refused to publish print ads for the upcoming Spike Lee film Bamboozled (2000) which is a satire poking fun at the television minstrel show of the forties. Lee wanted to run the ads for his film picturing people in black face but the ultra-conservative newspaper found them to be racially offensive to their readers. He explains, "We have the one with Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson in black face and the other one has a picanniny eating a big giant slice of watermelon! So they said, `Nah we're not running this, Spike, because it's gonna offend the readers of The New York Times.'" Spike thought about a lawsuit against the paper but it would be too time consuming, so they accepted a toned down advertisement. He explains, "I was gonna sue `em but I didn't have the time nor the money. By the time we got to court the movie would be on DVD so we just submitted six more images and they accepted three. It has them in black face but it's just not in color, it's in black and white!" »
Controversial film-maker Spike Lee is shocking the public by promoting his latest movie Bamboozled (2000) with an ad campaign full of stereotypical, racist images of African-Americans. The ad for the fictional Mantan Minstrel Show features a cartoon illustration of a winking black man with huge lips and an oversized toothy smile. Small print directs readers to www.stepnfetchitpictures.com, where they'll find a whole line-up of bogus shows on a make-believe network, CNS. The controversial ad and website are actually promoting the movie about an all-black TV sitcom that's written mainly by whites. The film stars Savion Glover, Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson and Michael Rapaport. "Spike Lee's ad is an eye-opener and it is going to raise racial anger again - which is his trademark, " said Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. "This will bring Lee even more fame and notoriety as the film chronicler of America's discredited racial past, " adds Meyers. "Still, the anger attendant to this recycling of racial trash, I bet will not be worth the price of admission." »
While the title might suggest a Martin Scorsese director's cut, neither Robert De Niro nor Jerry Lewis are anywhere to be found in "The Original Kings of Comedy", actually Spike Lee's filmed souvenir of a highly successful tour (more than $37 million in ticket sales from 98 shows) by a quartet of top black comics.
The kings, or jokers, in question -- Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac -- are all extremely funny, highly polished performers at the top of their craft. And Lee respectfully gives the show, shot during two nights onstage in Charlotte, N.C., ample room to breathe -- with ample, unfortunately, being the operative word.
Clocking in at 117 minutes, "Kings" deals out too much of a good thing, overtaking by a good half-hour such proven hits of the genre as "Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip," "Eddie Murphy Raw" and, more recently, Martin Lawrence's "You So Crazy".
There's also the question of whether the film's four-comics-for-the-price-of-one selling point will sufficiently persuade its niche audience to pay to see what they might feel they can regularly see on BET and HBO. More assured, however, is a strong performance on video.
The group certainly knows how to put on an entertaining show that generates substantial tear-producing laughter. And there's a discernible bit of Pryor in each of them.
Affable emcee Harvey plays the exasperation card, venting at rappers and dumb criminals and delivering a particularly hysterical bit about the hypothetical behavior of passengers aboard the Titanic.
Quick-witted Hughley keeps the observational quips going at a fast clip and likes to mess with the audience. Cedric the Entertainer lives up to his crowd-pleasing name with a generous sampling of song and character impressions. And confrontational Mac, a self-described road rat and master of the slow burn, isn't afraid to say the kinds of things most folks would never dare say out loud.
Needless to say, all four share a fondness for a certain 12-letter word situated high atop the Pryor lexicon, one that begins with an "m" and ends with an "r" -- and we're not talking "manufacturer."
Lee, meanwhile, working with his frequent collaborator, cinematographer Malik Sayeed, keeps it real by shooting on digital video and allowing the camera to work the room while remaining unobtrusive.
And thanks to Harvey's unapologetically old-school stance, there are plenty of vintage '70s musical cues featuring the likes of Earth, Wind and Fire, Ohio Players and Lenny Williams, not to mention a terrific sound mix that places the viewer front row center.
But while no performer likes getting the red light, "Kings" chooses to ignore the old showbiz adage about always leaving 'em wanting more. Almost two hours later, ain't nobody demanding an encore.
THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY
MTV Films and Latham Entertainment present
a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production
A Spike Lee Joint
Director: Spike Lee
Producers: Walter Latham, David Gale, Spike Lee
Executive producer: Van Toffler
Director of photography: Malik Sayeed
Production designer: Wynn P. Thomas
Editor: Barry Alexander Brown
Executive music producer: Alex Steyermark
Performers: Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac
Running time -- 117 minutes
MPAA rating: R
3 items from 2000
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