In Chris Rock: Never Scared — the first Home Box Office special for the comedian in four years — Rock proves that despite a sometimes spotty film career, he hasn’t lost a step in the medium he does best.
The hour-and-a-half special, featuring material from Rock’s current “Black Ambition Tour,” doesn’t waste time with the lame sketches that often precede HBO concert specials. There are a few quick scenes of concertgoers talking about their favorite bits before entering the Washington, D.C., theater where Rock is to perform. Then it’s right to the stage.
He starts off noting the changes in his life since his last tour — Rock is now married and the father of a baby girl, noting that he’s the man in her life.
“My only job in life is to keep her off the pole,” says Rock, who then segues into a wide-ranging barrage of jokes that hits on familiar topics ranging from strip clubs to relationships to celebrity peccadilloes.
Among the topics he punctures: the “stripper myth” about working your way through college (“I didn’t know there were colleges that accepted one dollar bills”); law enforcement’s failure to protect rap stars (“You want to get away with murder? Shoot somebody in the head and put a demo tape in their pocket”); and Michael Jackson’s troubles with the law.
“I thought it was Groundhog’s Day,” Rock says of learning that Jackson was again in trouble for fooling around with an underage houseguest, adding: “Remember you used to have arguments about who was better, Michael Jackson or Prince? Prince won.”
He also chides Kobe Bryant — for not hiring Johnnie Cochran as his lawyer. “You want to look innocent in jail? I’d rather look guilty at the mall.”
But it’s once again in taking on politics, race and culture where Rock is at his best. He criticizes the “gang mentality” of pundits and politicians on the right and left, and gives his qualified support for affirmative action with a pointed example.
“We’re a nation of B and C students,” he says, positing that an African-American C student probably couldn’t get a job managing a Burger King. “Meanwhile, the white C student just happens to be president of the United States of America.”
In terms of offering comedy that doesn’t pull punches, Never Scared never disappoints.
Chris Rock: Never Scared bowed Saturday, April 17 on HBO and will repeat throughout April and May.