Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Chris Rock Netflix Special "TAMBORINE" Review

It was exactly 30 years ago when Chris Rock first made me laugh. He walked into a fast food restaurant in the 1988 film "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" trying to buy ribs, and it was hilarious. Equally entertaining was his 1991 character "Pookie" in New Jack City. And how about his role in 1992's "Boomerang" or his many stand up specials? Iconic.

"Bring the Pain" (1996) and "Bigger and Blacker" (1999) brought tears to my eyes. Chris Rock was the man. He made me holler! He was so clever, and witty. His voice was unique. His jokes were hysterical. And he continued to make fabulous HBO specials up until "Kill the Messenger" in 2008...and then he stopped.

He was kinda off the radar for a bit. Still around, but not super "hot" while other guys like Chappelle and Kevin Hart were working their way up the comedic ranks. He was always great, but not always the most relevant cat in the comedy club.

Admittedly, some of his movies were less than stellar after the fire that was the 90s. There was great messaging and philosophies in the concepts of "Down to Earth" (2001) and in "Head of State" (2003). And I actually really, really enjoyed the 2014 film "Top 5," even though I didn't hear much hype before or after its release.

His TV show "Everybody Hates Chris" (2005-2009) was brilliant. Really good TV. He hosted the Academy Awards a couple of times, and won a couple of prestigious awards, Emmys and Grammys. In the words of Mo'Nique, he is a "well decorated" comedian...but in the words of me: he's a legend. Even after that down time, I never lost faith in him.

Needless to say, right? Obviously, Chris Rock is one of the greatest comedians of our time. Now when I speak of "our" time...I consider Eddie Murphy just to be on the edges of our generation. I was young enough to laugh at his stand-up specials when they first came out, but not old enough to originally catch the context or nuances. What I love about Chris Rock's latest special is that I'm old enough to be in on the joke. Maybe even too old. And that's the beauty of his humour right now...it's right on time, and right in step.

I can appreciate that Chris Rock has grown as a man, and matured as a comedian. He's established a distinct voice as a cultural leader, and even a political figure to a certain extent. His opinions are interesting, his perspectives are sought after. And in his/our "old age"...his humour is now well-defined.

TAMBORINE is the name of the Netflix special that blessed him with millions and millions, and blessed me with some laughter. In fact, since its February 14th release, I've already watched the special twice. This one in particular has resonated with me.

He covered the regular current affairs like pop culture, the odd political climate banter, went into details of fatherhood as a Black man, and the unfortunate unraveling of his marriage in 2016. It was traditional...and it was personal. And I loved every minute of it. I thought it was a tightly written and well executed "stand up routine".

Live from Brooklyn, where Chris Rock was raised (although born in South Carolina), the 53-year old comedian was honest about his position right now. As a seasoned entertainer. As a father to Black children. As a husband, as a single man, and as a wealthy man. The honesty, and introspection is what made this special...well, special to me.

I remember Chris Rock as being loud, and wild, and you never knew what he was gonna say. Unpredictable and such. Images of "CB4" and some of his antics of the past weren't really a concern. He is still outspoken and hilarious...but not with the same reckless abandon that he once had. I trusted his words to be significant...and even when they were slightly off-colour...I knew that there was a bigger message that would be reinforced as a result.

I respect his opinion. I loved to hear his perspectives. I laughed even the second time around when I caught new angles to what he was saying. It was so reflective of the culture, and the growth of the culture...a culture that he was a part of, and a culture that he helped to create.

In conclusion, I just love to see the culture grow. I love to see the same faces that we watched 30 years still on screen doing what they do best. I enjoy watching the growth of their careers, and how they handle adversity. It's interesting to see the ways in which they master their art, and how time and perspective and culture shape the way they deliver their gifts. All of this made watching TAMBORINE extremely enjoyable for me. But it was Chris Rock that made it almost magical, because I felt like he's BACK and not even trying to fade away from the stage. He's going to ride this career out to the fullest, staying on top of his game, and I'll be here every step of the way to watch and laugh out loud. With appreciation.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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