Rated R - Running Time: 1:55 - Released 8/18/00

Since Spike Lee is one of the most respected black directors of all time, and one of my favorites, it seems surprising that he is at the helm of The Original Kings Of Comedy, which is basically just a straightforward film of a comedy concert by four prominent black comedians. It's not that Kings is a bad film, but it could have been directed by anyone; Lee seems overqualified.

The film's content is mainly just the onstage antics of emcee Steve Harvey and his guests, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac, who each do about 20-30 minutes with Harvey appearing in between, at a live concert filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina, last February, part of the phenomenally successful Kings Of Comedy tour which has swept the nation in the past few years. They don't cover any astoundingly new material, but do get plenty of laughs from their nearly all-black audience, discussing such things as their grandmothers' behavior in church, their favorite kind of music, the differences between blacks and whites, and sex. The material is definitely aimed at black audiences, but there is plenty to please everyone as long as one is not offended by profanity, which is used heavily by all four comedians. The only bit I actually found offensive was Mac's section on the virtues of good old-fashioned child abuse when the kids act up. I can agree that child rearing has become more challenging in recent years than in the old days when a swat on the butt was the most common form of discipline, but hitting a kid on the head with a hammer and leaving a bump is just not funny to me. Also in his set was about 10 minutes on the importance of the word "motherfucker" in black vocabulary, featuring a hypothetical conversation containing the word used in every sentence. I'm not personally offended by the word; I just thought the bit was boring and uninspired.

The set is quite extravagant in the immense Charlotte Coliseum, decorated with huge crowns and other kingly things, and Lee's use of roving cameras in the house catches the favorable reactions of the audience members during the entire film. In between the sets are short, candid scenes shot backstage to help us get to know the comics in a more personal way. It is during these intimate scenes where Lee's style is more clearly evident, using settings such as a basketball court or a poker game, along with inventive camera angles and editing to give a spontanaeous feel.

Overall I would say that one's enjoyment of The Original Kings Of Comedy would depend on one's tastes in stand-up comedians. Not being of the African American persuasion, I could not clearly identify with a lot of what these guys were saying, but I still got a chuckle here and there. ***½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews | See FilmQuips Archive