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Eight comedians battle it out to win viewers' votes and claim the title King of Comedy. They live and work together 24 hours a day, preparing to perform on stage each night in front of an audience in the Kings of Comedy club.
February 26 and 27, 2000, the Original Kings of Comedy play Charlotte, NC. The themes are Blacks and Whites, men and women, old-school and hip-hop. Steve Harvey emcees, celebrates '70s music and lyrics of love, and pokes at folks in the front row. D.L. Hughley mines racial differences and talks about his marriage. Cedric the Entertainer riffs on a Black president and on being grown up. Bernie Mac, who says he expresses what's in the back of our minds, closes with reflections on being 42 (new aspects to his sex life and his attitude toward children). Spike Lee's camera takes us backstage and off-stage with the Kings and into the crowd where everyone's laughing. Written by
Spike Lee's sharp direction is the movie's best element. Hilarious. ***1/2 (out of four)
***1/2 (out of four)
"The Original Kings of Comedy" is a documentary filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina during the "Kings of Comedy" tour where four stand up comedians, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac, crack jokes about race, sex, families, and human responses. This film works as a behind the scenes look at a standup comedy routine and just as a plain comedy. There are many incidences of explosive hilarity thanks to the perfect timing and audacity of the comedians. Although more appropriate as an HBO comedy special, Paramount Pictures made a wise decision to release this production nation wide as box office reports prove. That proves American audiences are thirsty for insightful comedy, regardless of format.
Steve Harvey is the movie's opening comedian, the most smooth, clever, charismatic, and aggressive towards the audience. He comes on between each performance and does a short reaction analysis with the viewers. Harvey makes some very funny wisecracks about the music industry, the movie "Titanic," and stereotypes black churches. He ventures an energetic, high-spirited sense of humor that really gets the audience revved up.
Next up in line is D.L. Hughley, the star of the television sitcom "The Hughleys." Steve Harvey is much more charismatic in his style of humor than Hughley, who concentrates more on a macho approach to racism, sex, and profanity. That is not to say this comedian's humor is not sharp with an observant comic edge. He cracks some very funny jokes about Christianity and Jesus. He is not quite as energetic or punchy as the three other performers, though.
The third performer is Cedric the Entertainer, who does a perceptive routine on white people's secure "hope" lifestyle and black people's confrontational "wish" lifestyle. He also observes how each race deals with presidential debates and Monica Lewinski. Cedric also humors white people's cowardly sights on violence, as well as smoking, the music industry, Tiger Woods, and even space shuttles. All of this is right on the money with his wide range of body language, including a hilarious dance routine. Cedric the Entertainer is perhaps the best of the four comedians in "The Original Kings of Comedy."
Finishing off is Bernie Mac, star of movies such as "Life" and "The Player's Club." He is the most racially profound and fastest on his toes with perverse humor. His jokes about sex are absolutely hilariously correct. He also explains what the word "m*therf*cker" means in the black language: a noun, a person, place or thing. Although Cedric the Entertainer is the most entertaining, Bernie Mac is by far the most hilarious comedian in the film; he got thundering, explosive laughter from the audience.
"The Original Kings of Comedy" is unsparing in racial humor. However, it is not really prejudice, just racially observant. It compares both black and white people in amusing methods, but does not rip on either race. It takes careful consideration to discuss race in comedy and not go over the top.
Spike Lee's sharp direction makes the movie involving. He often observes backstage life of the comedians to give us "behind the scenes" entertainment; several of the individual comedians are interviewed; studio audience members observing the comedy routine in the film are often examined to see their reactions to the comedian's antics. Lee, who's most recent credits include the raunchy, gritty "Summer of Sam," and fable-like "Bamboozled," is what gives this film its intelligence, and even though he captures many other aspects of the production, he never lets his style get in the way of letting the comedians bring down the house.
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