Saturday, February 26, 2005
Bring the Pain
Some people are apparently concerned that Chris Rock might say or do something that will utterly scandalize the delicate sensibilities of the people watching the Academy Awards (jeez, more than a year afterward the fleeting glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple still has a lot of people's panties in a bunch...it happened, the world didn't come to an end, get over it.)
It's not going to happen...Rock is a professional and he understands what works on whatever stage he's on (though, the fact that there's a possibility of something shaking the self-important pomposity off of the Oscar telecast...the fact that some people are even worried about it...is, to my mind, in and of itself a good thing...let the censor sweat a bit with his finger hovering over the button.)
I revisited this special, Rock's breakthrough moment, and found that nine years later it's still just flatout funny. Even the dated bits...O.J., Marion Berry...still kill. Rock's laser sharp wit gleefully skewers...and, at the same time, insightfully illuminates...ages-old conflicts between people (racial politics and sexual politics alike.) The now classic "Niggers vs. Black People" bit was instantly recognizable back then (I'd heard variations on that theme from my mother and my aunts since I was a child) and it still rings hilariously, horribly, undeniably true now.
Chris Rock was 30 when he recorded "Bring the Pain"...he'd been on the comedy club circuit, made a couple of movies, spent time on "Saturday Night Live" without really leaving that much of an impression...and he had the fierce bearing of a man seizing his moment, literally stalking the stage with feral, unblinking, fearless, profane energy. The threshold between journeyman and star was being crossed even if Rock...and the audience...might not have known it in the moment.
Rock has moved on since that time...but this special stands as a milestone in his career...but not the sum total of his career.