Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rocking in the Free World

It’s funny, isn’t it?

It says something about our current political system that it doesn't allow a political candidate to speak his mind until he's not a political candidate anymore. Whistle blowers are fired from their jobs when they try to do their jobs. And most of the talking heads supposedly reporting on the news simply read whatever is put in front of them.

But it’s different if you tell jokes. It’s amazing what those guys get away with. As the late Richard Jeni said, "Comedians are the only people given permission to tell the truth."

Isn’t it a shame when you have to go to The Daily Show to hear Jon Stewart and his crew of Merry Pranksters for the "real" news? And how about a angry, clear-eyed skeptic like Bill Maher who will say things about Bush that would make Anderson Cooper, just another haircut floating above an empty suit, dirty his Armani diapers? And then there’s Mr. Fire and Brimstone himself, the crazed Lewis Black, who loves kicking Republican ass.

But as good as these smiling assassins are, none of them are as good as Chris Rock. When he’s at his best, I think he’s the greatest comedic talent of his generation. And that’s why I cheered when I Think I Love My Wife, his new movie, only grossed a dismal 5.7 million dollars over the weekend it opened.

Yeah, I know it’s harsh, but what’s bad for Chris is good for the rest of us. We need a great comedian more than we need another mediocre actor, and as gifted as Chris is comically, he can’t act. It doesn’t matter whether he’s pretending to be a cop, investment banker, convict, CIA agent, or the 13th apostle, he’s still Chris Rock in spite of whatever costume he’s wearing. No, it’s not pretty. How ghastly is it? It’s Robin Williams in Jacob the Liar ugly. Eeorgh.

What Chris does better than anybody else is tell jokes. But his jokes are deadly IEDs packed with incendiary political commentary. During the promotional tour for I Think I Love My Wife, a reporter asked Chris if he thought the United states was ready for an African-American president.

“Why not?” Chris replied. “We already got a retarded president, so a black one shouldn’t be a big deal.”


Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Comedians have to speak in clear language when they talk about what they see going on around them, otherwise their audience doesn’t know they’re trying to say and the jokes don’t work. Politicians, on the other hand, are isolated from the real world so they use a slippery gobbledygook that nobody can understand. Chris Rock has been an insightful, pissed-off, card-carrying member of the reality-based community for a long time now. He can make you think and laugh at the same time.

And Chris hasn’t found a movie vehicle that has come close to matching the raw power and immediacy of his stand-up. Not yet.

Still, it bothers me that most people look for truth in a comedy monologue because we can’t take the pre-fabricated news in papers, magazines and television seriously. But as long as the corporate mainstream media continues to treat the public like brain-damaged children and spoon-feed us artificially-sweetened bullshit, we’ll go to Chris, Jay, David, Conan, and “Weekend Update” for a reality check when the bad craziness is everywhere.

Sometimes it ain't funny--even when it is.