This 80-minute HBO special was culled from Chris Rock’s 2008 “No Apologies” world tour. He shows the universality of his humor and his skills as a comedian by editing material together from three different shows: Carnival City Casino in Johannesburg, South Africa; the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York; and the Carling Apollo Hammersmith in London, England. The location changes are evident because he wears different clothes and has different backgrounds at each show, occurring at times within the same bit, and occasionally repeating moments for emphasis, which may be disconcerting for some viewers.
The concert is funny, offering plenty to laugh at, but Rock is a bit of a victim of his previous successes because the material in this special doesn’t reach the same high levels as his previous work. He doesn’t offer the insightful comedic social criticism like his classic bit “Niggas vs. Black People.” He does comes close when he points out how foolish the media and pundits are when talking about voters and Obama. Those who state that blacks only voted for Obama because he was black missed the boat. Rock points out it was because Obama was black and qualified; blacks wouldn’t have voted Flavor Flav for President.
Rock is rightfully considered one of the top stand-up comics working today, but anyone can make jokes about McCain being old and Bush being stupid. That’s not to say that Rock’s jokes on the topics he covers aren’t funny. His takes are better than his peers, but as a fan I expected to be caught more offguard with his material, instead of hearing standard fare like the differences between men and women in terms of dating and going out with friends.
Those new to Rock should know he uses a lot of crude and vulgar language, which he relies on too much. He diminishes the power of the words with their frequency rather than using them as strong punctuation. Unlike Richard Pryor’s conversion, visiting Africa did not change Rock’s perspective on the word “nigga,” which he uses frequently. He informs white people when they are allowed to say the word, like if it’s in a song by Dr. Dre or Kanye, but “it’s got to be in the song.” The other time is a very funny set of circumstances involves taking a beating on Xmas Eve.
The three-disc set contains the original HBO special on disc one, the New York performance and a digital copy of the show on disc two, and the South Africa and London performances as well as a “Conversation with Rock,” explaining his thinking behind the worldwide tour, on disc three. Unfortunately, “Conversation” doesn’t even run five minutes. The expanded set is best left for hardcore Rock fans and those who study comedy. The individual shows all run longer than the special and each contains different material, some specific to the locale.
While it may not be a landmark performance that has to be seen, Chris Rock – Kill The Messenger is still a funny comedy special, best watched with as many friends as possible.