Original Kings Of Comedy

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Spike Lee

The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/11/2000

Frequently hilarious comedy concert film, directed by Spike Lee.

Outspoken director Spike Lee’s latest film is an unusual change-of-direction – he’s chosen to film the hugely successful “Kings of Comedy” tour over two successive days at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Comedian Steve Harvey is the front-man for the concert, and the show consists of the three other comedians doing their routines, interspersed with Harvey’s own act – he also acts as MC and provides their introductions.

The four comedians featured are virtually unknown outside the States, yet they have an established following among African-Americans across the U.S. and their tour has recently become the highest-grossing comedy tour in history, to the tune of some $37 million in ticket-sales.

Despite this, it would seem that they are one of the entertainment industry’s best-kept secrets – Harvey’s introductions make it clear that none of them have achieved mainstream recognition in their own right. In light of that, Lee’s involvement becomes more understandable, since this concert film will bring them to the attention of audiences everywhere.

Inevitably, there will be comparisons with the comedy greats, and it’s true that this film isn’t quite in the same league as either Richard Pryor’s RICHARD PRYOR LIVE IN CONCERT, Eddie Murphy’s RAW or Chris Rock’s BRING THE PAIN. That said, each comedian has his own distinct style (though some of the jokes overlap a bit), and, even though some of the subject matter may be too obscure for British audiences, there are way more hits than misses.

Hughley is perhaps the funniest of the four, with a sharply-observed routine on poverty, but Harvey is also very good, particularly during his extended ‘Titanic’ bit. In fact, the film might have done better to end on Hughley’s act, since the other two aren’t quite as funny and the laugh-per-minute rate drops as a result.

As for the style of the film, Lee has wisely decided to concentrate on the on-stage action, with just a few brief glimpses into the comedians backstage (playing poker, recording a radio promo, fooling around on a basketball court and so on). These add very little to the film, since it is obvious that they’re playing up for the camera, and they’re not particularly interesting when they’re off-stage. Similarly, Lee includes only a handful of audience reaction shots. Interestingly, though the audience is 95 per cent black, there ARE some white people in the audience (some of them fall victim to a particularly funny rountine by Hughley), and yet none of them are featured in close-up.

Ultimately, then, this film offers a unique chance to see four comedians at the top of their game, with the fact that they are relatively unknown making it feel as if you’ve been let into a well-preserved comedy secret.

Worth seeking-out!

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Content updated: 19/11/2019 10:06

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