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THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac
Director: Spike Lee
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Paramount
Features: Trailer, Music Video, Bonus Scenes
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: February 27, 2001

Film ***1/2

For a while, it seemed as if the stand-up comedy concert genre had disappeared from movie screens, only to have a future in video. The genre was perfected in the early 80s by such stand-up pioneers as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. Now Spike Lee has revived the stand-up concert genre with his larger than life documentary The Original Kings of Comedy, featuring four of the hottest and funniest comedians working in contemporary stand-up comedy; Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac. The four comedians formed the Kings of Comedy Tour in 1997, and it has resulted in the highest grossing comedy tour in history. Lee collaborated with the Kings to shoot this movie during a performance in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Kings themselves wanted a movie to be made for this simple reason, if they never came to a certain town, or tickets were so hard to get for a show, they could see the movie and get a feeling of what their show is like. I saw the movie twice at the theater, and both times I felt as if I was attending an actual live show. The feeling was that real, and Spike Lee’s camera work helps create it. This is hands down one of the funniest movies in a long time. Never before has a movie made me howl with laughter, other than say, Meet the Parents. Like many modern comedians, these guys make you laugh so hard, because what these guys say isn’t just funny, it’s so, so true.

First up on stage is Steve Harvey, the MC of the show who provides his own comedy act before introducing each comedian. Harvey opens with some comments on the success of Charlotte’s football team, as well as some riotous thoughts on Ray Caruth’s botched escape plan from the law.  Harvey implies, “As a kid, Ray-Ray had to be the stupidest kid to ever play hide and go seek.” He also offers his opinion on the success of the movie Titanic. According to Harvey, “If there had been a bit about black people, there wouldn’t have even been a movie.” He goes on to comment about the scene of the movie where the band continues to play on the deck of the ship as it is slowly sinking. Harvey asks the audience, “What black band you know is gonna keep playing when the damn ship is going down? Kool and the Gang would’ve been unplugged and gone!” The show had hardly begun, and I was already about to fall out of my chair laughing.

Harvey then brings out D.L. Hughley, who has made a name for himself in both stand-up comedy and prime television. Hughley begins with some unique and funny insight as to what differs black people from white people. He presents such situations as getting fired to receiving calls from bill collectors. He then goes on to explain why it’s so hard to make love to your wife when you have kids, and it includes such hysterical dramatizations as a boy walking in a lovemaking mom and dad, shouting “GET OFF MY MOMMA!!!” Hughley wastes no time in going after the most distinguishing members of the audience, in a scene so uncompromisingly funny, it kind of makes you feel glad that you’re not actually there to be heckled.

Harvey returns to the stage in perhaps the film’s funniest moment. He cleverly differentiates the old school music of the 70s to today’s crass hip-hop scene, where he feels the message of love has completely been lost and replaced by lyrics such as “I shoot ya in da chest! I’ll wax you!”. He then brilliantly illustrates a wonderful complaint of why today’s hip-hop group, consisting of 40 plus members, must issue a microphone, when such groups as The Temptations were much more talented, and only needed one microphone to prove it. If Harvey’s take on toady’s rap music doesn’t leave you gasping for breath from laughter, nothing ever will.

Next up is wonderfully funny and superbly talented Cedric the Entertainer, who starts off by discussing how whites live on one creed, while blacks live on a totally different creed. He informs the audience that whites live by the ‘hope’ factor, and blacks live by the ‘wish’ factor, which he illustrates in a situation showing what would happen if two whites were late for a Kings show, and what would happen if two blacks were late. The joke involves the possibility of one’s reserved seat being occupied, and I’ll leave the two factors to you, dear reader, to apply. Cedric also offers some funny insight on why Bill Clinton is the closest thing we will get to a black president. He also includes some funny bits on why blacks run away from trouble, ghetto weddings, and The Post-Tiger Woods Renaissance.

Last, but not least is the hard-edged Bernie Mac, whose comedy is clearly the most personal of the four comedians.  When describing what it’s like to take care of his sister’s three kids, he doesn’t hesitate to admit that no matter how young a kid is, he will gladly put that young one out of his or her misery if pushed to the wire. Bernie addresses to the audience, “You people can’t really say these things in life, so I say it for you.” Bernie also explains why it’s so difficult to make love at his age, and pokes fun at the consequences. He also offers many ways to apply the term “motherf-----“. 

At the heart of this laugh fest is Spike Lee’s unique vision. His style of documenting this comedy show helps enhance the overall enjoyment of the presentation. Other than Bernie Mac, who I remember seeing in such movies as Life and Friday, I had never seen these comedians perform before, and I am happy that I got a chance to see them from a certain perspective. They are four of the funniest, most talented, and most raw comedians to ever grace the comedy stage. The Original Kings of Comedy is comedic gem of a movie, and hopefully because of it, we will see more comedy concert movies in the near future. Maybe some from a few of the Kings themselves.

Video ***1/2

Although the look of the film is different from seeing in the theater, because the format it was shot in shows up differently on video or DVD, this is a fabulous looking disc from Paramount. Colors light up and are displayed beautifully, especially in concert footage. Even the behind the scenes moments don’t flaw a bit as you might expect them to. A video transfer that superbly helps bring the live experience to life.

Audio ****

I mentioned earlier that watching this movie was like actually being at the live show itself, and the sound quality of The Original Kings of Comedy enhances that feeling a hundred percent. An astounding sounding disc, which captures everything from numerous music interludes, crowd noise, and the voices of the comedians themselves, making it sound as if they are live right in your living room. A glorious 5.1 Dolby Digital presentation in a movie totally worthy of superior sound.

Features **1/2

Not too bad of a job from Paramount in the extras field. Included on the disc are some bonus scenes cut from the movie, a music video for the song “#1 Stunna” by Big Tymers, which also features Steve Harvey, and a trailer.

Summary:

If you’re in a laugh-till-it-hurts kind of mood, look no further than The Original Kings of Comedy, a rare kind of comedy where you might find yourself wanting to watch it again just to catch what you missed when you were laughing so hard during the previous viewing.