Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kevin Hart & The Wayans Bringing Funny Back to Television

I mentioned it back in July 2009 after checking out a comedy show from Toronto's own Trixx, and again in November 2009 with the renaissance of Twitter humour with Affion Crockett, Nile Evans, Craig Wayans, Damian Dante Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Damon Wayans Jr., DeRay Davis, and a few others in their circle of funny men. I was laughing that year...a lot, thanks to them.

Kevin Hart was on SNL this past weekend, the Wayans family were on Oprah and it reminded me that I MISS LAUGHTER! Good old-fashioned sitting in front of the TV and actually laughing out loud. Sometimes years go by and there's no one hot out there, no one doing anything overtly hilarious. And then every now and then there's a wave of comedic genius back in the air, and it's stand-up time again. This is one of those times.
Who doesn't love comedy? It's a beautiful thing when it's done correctly. I remember the first time I laughed so hard until I cried and couldn't breathe...watching Eddie Murphy "Delirious" with my dad and sister. I was probably about 10 years old and nearly dead at the ice cream jokes and other classic tales that most of us can probably quote word for word. There was nothing greater.

The next wave of comedy probably came with the Wayans and In Living Color. And let's not forget Martin Lawrence. While The Cosby Show made us laugh...the Wayans and Martin took it to another level...it was a different kind of laughter.

Then there was Def Comedy Jam, and guys like Chris Tucker, and Chris Rock. OMG, Chris Rock used to make me BAWL with laughter, I loved that guy. Still do. I remember the late 90's and early 2000's having a bit of a comedy lull in that regard, although I did really enjoy the Original Kings of Comedy with Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, and D.L. Hughley.

Then comedy got almost too common? BET had their nightly Comic View television program that started out super hilarious...but then almost ended up giving me joke overload. Shit just was so funny that it wasn't funny anymore. At all.

And then there was Dave Chappelle. God bless him, that man to me is always going to be one of the greatest. I had the pleasure of seeing him live in Toronto at Massey Hall just at the height of his career and beginning of his vanishing in 2006. Hilarious.

Again...left me with a void when he left the public eye. Yes, there were funnymen around...but no one was really like the "it guy" of comedy.

Don't get me wrong, there's always Saturday Night Live (one of my all-time favourite shows) with Andy Samberg and Jason Sudekis and long list of jokers that emerged from that show. And I LOVE the brilliance of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, their spin off shows, and movies, and other gems that popped up in the interim...but there wasn't that "someone."

It took this long for me to really laugh again at a public figure, and Kevin Hart is the man that made it happen. He's the one that brought funny back to me, and I can't get enough of him.

Started with a few standup movies, and then I saw him live last summer in Toronto and fell in love with this guy's antics. Access to his YouTube channel and other random appearances on television shows, the movie Think Like A Man, and of course the hilarious NBA All-Star apperances. What's not to love?!

Kevin Hart is only 32, born and raised in Philadelphia, and has had a career that's now spanned over a decade with movie roles in Soul Plane in 2004, 40 Year Old Virgin in 2005, and recent television appearances like 2011 in Modern Family.

His own show The Real Husbands of Hollywood debuted on BET this year, and is doing well so far. It's FULL of stars, but still has the authentic Kevin edge and humour to it...and it's freakin hilarious. So it's been on for a few weeks now and I had to think back...when was the last time there was a GREAT comedy line up on TV? A show that I actually made an effort to tune into regularly, and watch it, and laugh, and enjoy it? It's been a minute!

I love that BET is establishing their Tuesday night lineup, including Second Generation Wayans featuring Craig, his cousin Damien Dante, and others. I love that this family continues to stay in the media spotlight, and think they're a brilliant example of a strong show business family that was able to stay relevant through films, appearances, television, and raise a stable group of young entertainers to carry on the family's tradition.

This weekend just reminded me of where comedy is right now...and I believe it's coming back. I think the days of reality television are finally coming to an end, and writers are being forced to be extra-creative, cutting edge, and staying ahead of their audiences. We're so used to being over-saturated with access to people's real life drama, and subsequently disappointed by the reality of many "stars"...I think the viewing public is ready for good solid talent, solid writing, and a new era of what we consider to be entertaining.

Kevin's apperance on Saturday Night Light this past weekend was great (not as funny as I think it COULD have been, but that's probably more about the SNL writers and less about Kevin himself). But either way, it was just a real peak for him, I think, solidifying him as a superstar comedian. He's made his mark. This is his moment in time, and I love to see him gaining popularity and recognition for his talent.

His tour movie "Let Me Explain" will be in theatres this July. Can't wait.

Then seeing Oprah's Next Chapter on Sunday night with the Wayans family brought another sense of pride and happiness to me. There was Keenan, and Kim, Marlon (I have LOVED this man from the beginning of TIME!) and Shawn, and they were still charming. Still tight. Still looking good, and really just still on top of their game if you think about it.

Like, this family has maintained their name over two decades now. Some of their movies have been downright hilarious...others not so much. But they've had great television shows (My Wife and Kids, The Wayans Brothers, etc.) and they're still hustling. I don't often think about their legacy or what that means for entertainers and even "black" entertainment...but it just really sunk in to see them with Oprah, mature but still jokers. And now the next generation is writing, and producing, and this is it. This is how legacies are sustained.

In the 80s and 90s we required nothing more than a funny script and a couple of characters like Shanaynay or Homie the Clown just being stupid and cracking us up for months and years on end. I miss the purity of that. I miss that genuine from-the-heart laughter that makes you just happy to be a part of the generation and community that gets to enjoy these gifts.

I love the world of entertainment...not just for the "entertainment" value, but the people behind it. The singers, and writers, and those who work so hard to keep us happy and inspired. I love that comedy is making a comeback in such a pure form. No gimmicks or ridiculousness, just funny people doing and saying funny shit.
So this is my public "thank you" to Kevin Hart, and to the Wayans family for inspiring me this weekend. I've admired them over the years...but this weekend took it to a real ADULT professional level. Like these guys were just common jokesters 15 years ago, and now they are bonafide business men and icons. It makes me happy to see them do well, and to know that even just through our emotions and our laughter, that we are sharing in a piece of this history.

It feels good. We need more of this laughter in the world. It goes a long way.

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