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The Original Kings of Comedy

By Sergio Mims

AUGUST 21, 2000: 

With enough high energy and sassy attitude to seem like it was shot out of a cannon, Spike Lee's latest, "The Original Kings of Comedy," is an exuberant, raw and gut-bustingly hysterical comedy concert film that succeeds in its desire to be something more than a collection of routines. Shot last fall during the phenomenally successful nationwide Kings of Comedy tour, Lee's documentary showcases the manic and hilarious talents of four black stand-ups on the edge of major fame. Letting Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer and Bernie Mac go through their paces, the film transcends being just a simple concert film to a singular cultural event revealing all four comedians as the spiritual and comedy heirs of black comic legends of the fabled Chitlin' Circuit such as Moms Mabley, Pigmeat Markham, Redd Foxx and Rudy Ray "Dolomite" Moore. With no apologies, and no attempt whatsoever to dilute their material to reach a broader audience—although whites are more than welcome to attend—and with no one single weak link among them. all four delve deep into the tradition and nuances of black culture to create a searingly funny yet loving perspective on everything from seventies soul love songs versus rap music to "country-ass" black folk to smoking to delinquent kids to oral sex and almost every other subject imaginable. Lee, smart enough to know that the comics are the film, shoots down and dirty with his platoon of digital video cameras, going for an undisciplined, scattershot visual style—from overhead wide angle shots to looking-straight-up-the-nostrils sweaty close-up low angles—as if the camera were a birthday toy he's playing with for the first time. The camera's giddiness only enhances the excitement generated by his star performers. 117m.


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