Some things that seem to have changed significantly over the years turn out not to have changed much at all when inspected more closely. Take stand-up comedy, for instance. The change in stand-up comedy between 1980 and 2010 is as significant as the change in a room that has been painted. Although the language may be more colorful, the subjects mined remain static: families, sex, animal attacks, the president, economics. These are durable topics, things that have always been with us and are always good for some laughs. What makes a successful comedian, besides timing, is the ability to take old, reliable subjects and make them fresh. Certainly new themes evolve over the years, especially with the rate of technological change, but we can pretty much depend on a comedian talking about his/her family or politics. Sex offers so many different approaches, it’s always going to be covered.
There are five comedians included on the Shaquille O'Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam – Live from South Beach DVD and some of their topics overlap. Most talk about the president, which is especially apt since the comedians are black. Being president in the past meant being speared by stand-up. The comedians on this DVD celebrate the president, and it’s an odd experience listening to routines that don’t bash the Commander-in-Chief. After all, that’s been the stuff of comedy for decades. It’s refreshing to see people speak highly of the man, even though we know that the longer he is in office, the less kind they will be. And the funnier they will be.
D.L. Hughley hosts the program, and he sets the tone. He covers a lot of territory in his allotted time and it’s hilarious. Other featured comedians are Melanie Comarcho, Earthquake, Lavell Crawford, and Arnez J. It may be in very bad form to laugh at the handicapped, but Arnez J’s take on his brother, who is apparently both mentally and physically handicapped, is laugh-out-loud funny. It’s so politically incorrect that we should be embarrassed to admit laughing, but it has great appeal to that 14-year-old within who doesn’t know what political correctness is, just what’s funny.
Some people strive not to let political correctness censor their thoughts; these five comedians succeed. Using explicit language, they share their views on how the different races react in similar situations (for example, why white people are attacked by sharks and blacks aren’t), relationships between men and women, and a host of current events. Earthquake instructs on how a man’s taste in women changes as he ages; and Melanie Comarcho gives us a lesson on cheating and cell phones (Tiger Woods, take note). Lavell Crawford riotously explains the differences in moms when they get tired of their kids: black moms threaten to beat their butts, white moms take them for a “ride to the lake.” He closes his routine with an argument with his mother about who could deliver the best “your mama” line. The outcome is so unexpected, the viewer may pause a moment before appreciating it. Need it be said that it is also too explicit for this space?
Shaquille O'Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam – Live from South Beach was filmed in Miami and the audience reflects that city’s ethnic mix. Ethnicity means nothing to these comedians who skewer people of every race, thereby being free of prejudice. Shaquille O’Neal does not appear on stage but he does appear to be good-natured about jokes made at his expense or in his honor. There are no special features included on this DVD.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Shaquille O'Neal Presents: All Star Comedy Jam – Live from South Beach? Probably rent; it’s very funny but, as with all stand-up, one or two viewings is enough for me.