Original Kings of Comedy [2000]

The Original Kings of Comedy achieves the seemingly impossible task of capturing the rollicking and sly comedy routines of stand-up and sitcom vets Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac and the magic of experiencing a live concert show. Director Spike Lee and his crew plant a multitude of cameras in a packed stadium and onstage (as well as backstage, as they follow the comedians) to catch the vivid immediacy of the show, which is as much about the audience as it is about the jokes. And the jokes are funny. All four riff fast and furiously (and with much swearing) on the world in terms of race, family, sex, and in one routine, outer space. Hughley takes comedic aim at extreme sports and eating disorders, while Cedric harks back to the day when gang fights meant calling opponents out onto the dance floor. Bernie Mac, the self-confessed id comedian of the group, presents a routine that is simultaneously offensive and hilarious--an apt reminder that comedy can and should be vicious if we are ever to learn to laugh at ourselves and hopefully be the better for it. Harvey, who acts as the MC for the show, has some transcendent moments with the crowd (a '70s slow jam sing-along, anyone?) that have to be seen to be believed. There's no doubt as to why Kings was a hit with concert and movie audiences; the laughs keep coming, in the tradition of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, with a sharp eye on the nuances of today's racially affected culture. --Shannon Gee

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