Chris Rock at the Hammersmith Apollo.
Chris Rock’s first tour to the UK was sold out within two hours despite minimal publicity; the Apollo was brimming and people had paid to stand up at the back of the theatre. Was the interest justified?
Chris Rock has been billed as the funniest man alive. He was made (in)famous for his sketches “How not to get your ass kicked by the police” (uk.youtube.com/ watch?v=uj0mtxXEGE8), and his stand up joke on black people vs. niggaz. In truth, his trademark jarring yet endearing voice gives his commentary added humour, despite highly controversial and at times venomous content.
Rock set the diverse London crowd roaring with laughter when he said he was shocked that Barack Obama was a believable black Presidential candidate that hadn’t been assassinated yet. He also expresses his shock at George Bush screwing up the Presidency so badly “that Americans don’t even want a white man as President no more”.
Rock touched on class when he talked about how he grew up hating rich kids and their ungratefulness, and how a part of him now hates his own kids, as they are rich. He also had an excellent sketch on the injustice of 30 minute lunch breaks and the miserable nature of low-paid work.
But, though his observations on race and class are comical and honest, his political views are not particularly left-wing. His unashamed love for strippers and the raunch culture that is now prevalent, and his reliance on sexist stereotypes to explain his views on how to please women, had the fewest laughs of the evening.
On race, he said that although he is now a very rich black man, most white people still wouldn’t want to trade places with him. He still suffers racism. Although he shares a neighbourhood with prominent black R&B star Mary J Blige and Hollywood actor, Denziel Washington, he was disgusted to find out that his white neighbour was just a regular dentist. “For a black dentist to be that rich he’d have to invent teeth!”
The most disappointing aspect of his performance for me was that he recycled a few jokes from previous standups and lacked more satirical content. Though he has received the black comedy torch from Richard Pryor, it was a mediocre debut for “the funniest man alive”.