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DVD Review: Finesse Mitchell – Snap Famous

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Finesse Mitchell is one of many cast members who were on Saturday Night Live for a few years and never really did much while there. In Mitchell's case, his main claim to fame was as Starkisha, a character I always thought was one-note and pointless. His style while on SNL reminded me of a poor man's Tracy Morgan. Mitchell wasn't actively horrible, but he came across on the show as a roster filler.

Having said that, my expectations for Snap Famous (QD3/Image, 2006) weren't that high. I expected a HBO Comedy Showcase/BET ComicView-like stand-up routine, and in essence that's what Snap Famous is. Those expecting Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle-type humour are going to be disappointed, considering Mitchell is middle-of-the-road as black comedians go. While he shows considerable enthusiasm for his material, it's a bit indistinct and there isn't much to latch onto comedy-wise on Snap Famous. His SNL anecdotes are entertaining enough and Mitchell displays a certain candidness throughout Snap Famous, but his material just seems to exist for the most part.

Finesse Mitchell isn't a total write-off, though, since he displays some semblance of charm on Snap Famous. I never saw this side of Mitchell on Saturday Night Live, which surprised me. Mitchell has a certain physicality that punctuates and elevates his material a bit. He's far more comfortable at stand-up than as a sketch comedian, and Snap Famous shows that his material is better when part of his stand-up routine than cut up for "Weekend Update". He readily takes the piss out of himself and has a low-key delivery that doesn't seem forced. Even when Mitchell performs the audition piece that got him on Saturday Night Live – the genesis for his Starkisha character and a familiar riff on blacks liking martial arts films but hating the subtitles – the difference between stand-up Mitchell and sketch comedian Mitchell is obvious. It makes me wonder why he even decided to pursue a career in sketch comedy, aside from SNL being a high-profile gig.

The bonus sketches included with this DVD are of variable quality. "Pastor Tweeny Bucks," with Mitchell as the ineffectual leader of a small Georgian church, is eleven minutes of evidence that Mitchell is out of his element as a sketch performer. His performance as Pastor Tweeny just isn't funny, is horribly overlong and sounds like it was recorded on a camcorder. "Kinda Like MTV Cribs" is a bit better. The premise of Mitchell breaking into some rich black dude's house to show it off on camera is obvious, but Mitchell's personality helps the sketch some.

"The Streets of New York" is the main attraction here. Mitchell's strength is to play off other peoples' reactions and he's obviously having fun talking to people waiting in line for SNL tickets. Why Mitchell hasn't considered becoming an interviewer is beyond me, since he obviously has the talent for it.

Finesse Mitchell's stand-up act doesn't blow his SNL stint completely out of the water, but it's better than I expected and it'll be interesting to see how his career develops now that he's no longer on SNL. His most notable post-SNL turn has been as a relationship/dating columnist for Essence. He also has a book, Your Girlfriends Only Know So Much, coming out later this year. It's a weird career turn but at least he's done something to build on his SNL stint, so good on Finesse Mitchell for that.

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About Cameron Archer