Tag Archive: chris rock


 

natalie_portman_israeli_actress_latest_wallpaper

Self Promotion Time!

‘Natalie Portman: the Musical!’ is back starting this Friday as part of the prestigious Hollywood Fringe Festival!

I have heard that ‘Samuel L. Jackson’ and ‘Chris Rock’ will be there among others, will you?

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1362

 

So how was my first run on an L.A. stage?  It’s been great.  Truly.

Earlier this week, I was in more of my natural element: a television soundstage.  12 hour day (usually the minimum), even with digital technology, at least 45 minutes between each setup to (hopefully) capture five minutes of usuable footage.

You use the same toolbox to build a character, but the stage experience is different in every other important way.  You’re on for two hours every night the show plays, ideally the person in the back row has to hear every word and see every gesture as clearly as the person in the front row.  You space out and forget your line or your cue, you come up with something else immediately or hope your scene partner bails you out.

The above is just stage acting; now let’s talk about the play I’m in.  First with live comedy, have to stay in character.  Drama is the same sure, but when you’re telling jokes, and your scene partner loses it, or you just get the giggles, you have to commit.  In this cast/show, I am the ‘Host’, so I have the easiest load to carry.  In sports/music terms, keep the show going, don’t take anything off the table.  If the audience wants to laugh, let them laugh; if they’re ‘too’ quiet, up the improv ante to try to warm them up.  In the audition and rehearsals I did impersonations of Denzel and Morgan Freeman, but let’s be honest: Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock are naturally more ‘theatrical’, and if you’ve seen the show, they work better for the ‘role’.  I still have no ambition to do stand up, but after doing this show I have to admit I feel more confident I ‘could’ do it, even if I was telling killer jokes in front of a sold out crowd who refused to laugh (which happened one night during our run).

In character, I’m supposed to be at the Theatre ‘because I owed someone a favor’, I’m supposed to be surly and undersell the jokes and the talent of the rest of cast, just in every way possible, I’m pissed to be roped into the show.  Basically, the exact opposite of how I truly feel, so you could say I have the hardest acting job in the cast. (See what I did there?)

But seriously, the reviews back it up, everyone who has come down has backed this up: it’s a fun show with a very talented cast.  Once in a while I betray my character and smile, but it’s still fun to watch the scenes play out, and to hear the songs sung.  Out of character, I’ve very much become a fan of everyone in the cast (and crew) individually, and hope to work with each of them again.

And Natalie, honey, if you’re not campaigning for Obama this weekend, you should get a sitter and come down.  I’ll comp you front row…

 

B-man,

What up?  So kudos to you first for taking on the job on such short notice.  You’ve got the pedigree the Academy likes, and at this point, I don’t think anyone has any expectations for next year’s show.

So having said that, I think this year is the perfect opportunity to do something drastic. And by being drastic, I mean give the hosting duties to me.  I’ve thought this through and I will give you my reasons why I’m the perfect host this year…

1. I like damn good in a tux.

I mean seriously, look at me!

2. I’ve been doing Oscar preview/live blogs for the past five years.

Going back to our film school days (maybe earlier), my partner in crime and I have used the interwebs to offer predictions and last year running commentary on the show, so it’s not like I won’t be watching anyway.

http://malikaziz.com/2011/02/27/2011-artfradieu-oscar-live-commentary/

3. I’m cool with ‘this’ Establishment.

My generation of young actors, writers, directors, producers, etc. are coming up so you’d get to keep that ‘we’re still hip’ vibe that Eddie and Brett were giving you.

4. I keep my private affairs to myself.

So no talk from me about my gigantic balls or what 70s group my genitalia are named after.  But having said that…

5. I’m down for a little bad publicity.

But only on a short term basis, and only if we’re clear the endgame is to drive more eyeballs to the show. I’m single, Kim Kardashian is single; I’m just saying…

6. I’m a genuine film geek.

I have the respect for ‘Old Hollywood’ that I think is mandatory for the job.  And in my particular case I know the history of those who came before me, from Sammy to Whoopi to Chris, and the historical part of that turns me on. And it’s going to be a little weird if Viola Davis is the only black person in the Kodak Theatre.

7. I’ve been vocal about my support for gay marriage.

So you’d be getting someone who’s gone in the complete opposite direction from the little fiasco that got the last guy fired.

8. I’m an award winning producer/director/actor who has hosting experience.

And my writing team works cheap to boot!  Here’s a joke I was just handed:  “So this Herman Cain fella? This week one of his accusers says that he grabbed the back of her neck and said ‘You want the job right?’ during her sexual assault.  When asked for comment, former President Clinton said, ‘I like a blow job as much as the next man, but if that’s your modus operandi, you are NOT qualified to be the President of the United States!”

(Hm, you’re right. That’s more of a Golden Globes joke, than an Oscars joke isn’t it?  I’ll fire that writer.  Let’s table that one for now…)

9. It’d be a Full Circle/Small Town Moment

One of the first gigs I ever had in this town was working for Imagine Entertainment as a researcher for your Hugh Hefner project.  You paid me to go to the Playboy Mansion everyday, so really, as a man, I’m already in your debt.  There’s a lot of jokes there, but I’m saving them for the monologue.  And finally…

10. I’d Genuinely Be Happy to Have the Gig

And that should mean something right?

Eddie at the Oscars

 

A week or so of rumors became official today when Eddie Murphy was named the host of next year’s Academy Awards telecast.  To one generation, Eddie is Donkey from Shrek and Norbit (sigh), but to my generation, Eddie was OUR stand up idol.  Richard Pryor was the pioneer, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are multi-talented guys who probably prefer stand up, Kevin Hart is the present and future, but none of the above guys matched Eddie Murphy at his absolute apex. And they all probably idolize Eddie enough to agree with that statement.

I’ve heard more than once that Eddie wanted to get back into standup but once he became ‘Eddie Murphy’ it just wasn’t happening.  So whatever we end up getting next year, (and I don’t want to get my hopes up too high) we should probably just enjoy it.

 I’ve always been in the minority in my crew for having ‘Eddie Murphy Raw’ memorized instead of ‘Delirious’, but you couldn’t go wrong with Eddie at this stage of his career.  This is one of the cleaner bits from the two stand up movies:

Def_Comedy_Jam

Dating back to the days of Redd Foxx (and earlier), black stand up comedians would pay their dues on a different route than their white counterparts.  Affectionately known as the ‘chitlin’ circuit’, the black stand ups of the 80s and 90s would tour the country for years, decades even, performing blue material that catered directly to a specific audience.

Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam essentially brought the chitlin circuit to the mainstream.  A staple of HBO in its pre-Soprano days, Def Comedy Jam in its heyday showcased more black talent in one episode than most broadcast network shows do in a season.

Enough prologue, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  As described in the intro, Def Comedy Jam became an instant sensation with fans of black comedy.  Hosted by Martin Lawrence and DJ’ed by Kid Capri, the show ‘became’ the chitlin circuit I mentioned earlier.  With the freedom that HBO still provides to this day, no subject matter was taboo, and I’d love to reprint some of the jokes here, but sadly this is PG rated blog.

Legacy:  From a TV show point of view, BET’s Comic View was obviously the direct attempt to capitalize on this with a cleaner set of language.  When I think of legacy in terms of this show though, my first thought was ‘how many black comedians who went on to bigger things appeared on Def Comedy Jam?  A quick fact check made me realize the better question would have been, ‘Who DIDN’T appear on the show at some point?’  The only big name 90s black comedian who I think never came close to crossing that stage (for fairly obvious reasons when you think about it) was Sinbad.

Craft:  The first few years of the show, that comedy was superb.  And I don’t say this to put down some of the stand ups who appeared when the show started to lose steam, but everybody is not as funny as Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Joe Torry or Dave Chappelle.  You throw in Comic View starting to dilute the talent pool and it was inevitable that the things would change.

Crossover:  It was known I think.  Chris Rock did a pretty funny parody of the show when he hosted SNL once.  Hip hop was in its Golden Age, so it’s not a stretch to think the white kids who were buying Public Enemy albums were also watching Def Comedy Jam. 

Apollo: 

The TV show countdown continues later with the making of a future movie star…

richard_pryor_live_on_sunset_strip

Richard Pryor is universally recognized as the black comedian who set the stage for the onslaught of African-American stand ups who followed him in the 80s, 90s, and present day.  An argument can be made that there are funnier stand up films by some of the comedians that came after him, but Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip set the standard for almost every black comic stand up film that came after it.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  While he certainly wasn’t the ‘first’ (Redd Foxx also comes to mind as someone who made a dent in the mainstream), Richard Pryor is held in such high praise by comedians and entertainers alike that it’s hard to imagine someone hitting that level of reverence today, working mostly as a standup.    You don’t need to have an eagle eye to spot a young Jesse Jackson in the crowd during this show, so um, Rich was at the heart of the community to say the least…

Legacy:  Wow.  Where to begin?  On a superficial level, it’s probably not a coincidence that in his first big stand up film Delirious, Eddie Murphy rocks a bright red leather suit that mimics that bright red suit Rich wore in this film.  The way Rich prowls the stage when he delivers his jokes, it’s easy to see Chris Rock mimicing his movements.  Rich’s confession that he’ll stop using the N-word to tear down his people has echoes of the reason Chappelle said he quit his own mega popular show.  Rich’s comedic telling of his nearly life ending episode is definitely reminiscent of Martin talking about his notorious mental breakdown in his own stand up film.  And how about the whole going back to Africa bit that Jamie all but stole word for word for his best standup special from back in the day (though I’ll be the first to admit that bit is still hilarious)?  Safe to say, every black comedian worth his salt watched this film more than once…

Craft:  I make no claims to be a comedian, but watching this film you really appreciate how many different types of comedy Richard Pryor did really, really well.  There’s the straight silliness/the storyteller (the animals in the jungle), the black comedian (the bit about brothers in the pen), and the self-deprecating (the whole bit about lighting himself on fire).  Even the comedians of my generation can usually only master one or two of these skill sets.  Richard Pryor really was the Man.

Crossover:  It wasn’t just black people who loved Richard Pryor of course.  Sequences like his story about working for the Mafia illustrate how Rich’s comedy went well, well past being just a black thing.  He was just one really, really funny motherf—–.

Apollo:  

An all time classic comes in next at #9.  But now that we’re in the top 10 that wasn’t much of a hint was it?  Guess you’ll have to come back later to check it out…

key_art_saturday_night_live

Probably the most controversial choice of the television side of the countdown, Saturday Night Live has ran for over 30 years and has more than earned its reputation as one of America’s top comedic showcases.  Created by Lorne Michaels, the show itself is not African-American by definition, but there is usually one black castmember every season.  And at least two of those castmembers…

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The show itself is not African-American in the traditional sense.  But because of its primetime NBC timeslot, SNL‘s reach gives it a much larger audience when it does do something with a racial undertone.  The first (and debatably most notorious) of these sketches took place when Richard Pryor was the guest host in one of the show’s first seasons.  Doing a job interview sketch with Chevy Chase, a game of word association quickly devolved into…well, go look it up if you’ve never seen it.

Legacy:  While Garrett Morris preceded him, few would argue that there was ever a more perfect storm than the emergence of teenage Eddie Murphy with the post-Belushi/Aykroyd SNL.  Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub, and of course Buckwheat…no single castmember, black or white, has ever done as much with that spotlight as Eddie.  But there have been others…

Craft:  Those who have tried it well tell you comedy is extremely hard to pull off (go and try to make everyone in your office laugh at the same joke if you disagree on this point).  A major reason SNL endures over time is in its ability to find the right comic notes with the present generation.  There’s always going to be juvenile humor since the show caters to a younger audience, but every once in a while (i.e. Sarah Palin), the jokes will have some teeth.  One lost but not quite forgotten skit was ‘The OverActing Negro Ensemble’, where Sinbad, Tim Meadows, Ellen Cleghorne and Chris Rock basically took every scene chewing move that black actors and writers use and threw it into a 2 minute skit.  Probably went over most people’s heads, but if you got the joke it was hilarious.

Crossover:  Um, yes.  I would even argue part of the humor of ‘Dick in a Box’ and “Lazy Sunday” is in seeing (square) white guys doing ‘black’ music.

Apollo: 

http://www.nbc.com/assets/video/widget/widget.html?vid=278716

The top 10 begins later this month…

bhcop

Originally written for Sylvester Stallone (who would take parts of the original idea to make Cobra), Beverly Hills Cop is universally agreed to be the film that made Eddie Murphy a movie star.  Don’t need much more for the intro, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  In terms of African-American ‘movie stars’ (which I’ll define as people who you can put the name on the top of the marquee and people will show up regardless of the film), that list is still pretty short more than 20 years later.  Denzel.  Will.  I’d argue those may be the only two who can do anything and everybody will show up.  And both of those brothers came along after Eddie Murphy.  Easy to forget now.

Legacy:  Essentially, every one of his starring vehicles after this, as well as every movie starring Chris Rock or Martin Lawrence to name two.  And those are just headliners.  Let’s not forgot about the Mike Epps’ and Bernie Macs who also benefitted. (As a sidenote, I know ALL these guys were inspired by Richard Pryor, but I would argue Rich’s legacy will always be as a stand up comedian who did a few movies.  Eddie was a FANTASTIC stand up comedian who completely stopped doing it once he became a movie star.)

Craft:  All reports indicate that this was one of those films where the script was just kind of ‘there’, and a lot of the best scenes and jokes were improvised by Eddie and the cast.  So does that make it better or worse from a craft point of view?  I could see either side…

Crossover:  Oh yeah…that’s why it’s ranked so high.  The highest grossing film of the year (narrowly beating out Ghostbusters I believe, you fact-checkers are welcome to correct me if I’m wrong on that point.)  It seems silly now, but in the 80s there were ‘three black celebrities’: Eddie, Michael, and Prince.  This film went a long way to putting Eddie in that company.

Apollo:  

The countdown continues later this month…

new_jack_city

Openly taking its cues from Scarface, New Jack City was an ‘anti-drug’ movie about a group of young brothers in New York rising to the type of the drug game in the early years of hip hop.  I openly admit this was a personal favorite of mine growing up as a teenager in the early 90s.  But this is about the grand scheme of things.  Anyway, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The movie was directed by Mario Van Peebles, son of the godfather of indie black cinema, Melvin Van Peebles.  While on the surface it’s a gangster film, the true ‘message’ of the film was how drugs (especially crack) was destroying the black community.  Hard to argue against the relevance of that.

Legacy:  There’s a lot of directions you can go in with this one.  The film that established Ice-T’s career beyond being a hardcore rapper?  Chris Rock’s best acting job (I would argue) as Pookie, the addict unable to perform?  The film that really put Wesley over the top as a headliner?  You could argue any of these and win.

Craft:  A lot of 90s black movies don’t age that well over time, but New Jack City is still watchable.  As mentioned with the Van Peebles connection (he also played one of the cops trying to bring Nino down) you had a man who knew the language of film and film acting.  It was made as a genre film and it worked well for what it was trying to be.

Crossover:  Um, the film, I don’t know.  But the soundtrack had some hits.  Pretty boy Christopher Williams “I’m Dreaming”, Ice-T’s “New Jack Hustler”, LeVert remaking their daddy’s “For the Love of Money.” I would say this was the best of the ‘hip hop soundtracks’ from this era, but as far as I’m concerned Above the Rim still holds that crown.

Apollo:  Again, I can’t pick one.  I’m preferential to the midnight Commission meeting (parodied so well on Martin), where Nino makes an example out of pretty boy Christopher Williams.  The obligatory (at the time) Wesley Snipes sex scene was also Wow-worthy.  Even the opening scene of the film, where Duh Duh Man and Nino drop a cat off a bridge was great, it let you know what you were getting into.  I just thought of three more scenes as I write; this was a well done genre pic, I’ll say again.

Next on the film countdown will be a film that could have made the list on the Apollo factor alone.  Back at the end of the month.

boomerang

Boomerang is one of the enduring black films of the 90s.  On the surface it can be categorized as just ‘another Eddie Murphy movie,’ but really it’s so much more.  The story revolved around a player named Marcus Graham, who gets the tables turned on him.  Most of you probably know the story, so let’s get to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: Directed by House Party’s Reggie Hudlin, here’s a quick rundown of a few members of the cast: Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Tisha Campbell, Robin Givens, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon…MAN!!!  I know there’s been talk of doing a black ‘Ocean’s 11,’ but I’d argue Boomerang was it!

Legacy:  Take your pick.  Allegedly after House Party and this movie, Martin decided to cast Tisha as Gina for his new sitcom, a little show called Martin.  There’s John Witherspoon taking it to the next level with his ‘coordination.’  There’s Halle Berry officially taking the crown of ‘woman every brother in America wants for a girlfriend/wife’.  (It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time long ago when Halle Berry wasn’t ‘Halle Berry’ yet.)

Craft:  Ahh, this was the ‘Golden Age’ when you were expected to be both technically sound and entertaining as a black film.  Good times.  Still a pretty watchable film today.

Crossover:  Do you remember the soundtrack?  Yeah that’s still a great album: ‘Love Should Have Brought You Home Last Night’ (the introduction of Toni Braxton), ‘Hot Sex’, ‘I’d Die Without You’, and one of the biggest songs ever, ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men.  It’s actually a nice song again now, but if you were around that year and you heard it at least twice an hour for four months straight, it became unbearable.  But it is a nice song.

Apollo:  The Grace Jones perfume commercial?  The perfect feet?  The seduction scene with Eartha Kitt (and her butler)?  Again, with this much talent (comedic and otherwise), take your pick.

Alright, back next month with the next piece.

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