Comedian Chris Rock doesn’t think this is the golden age of stand-up comedy. Far from it.
The caustic comic told TheWrap.com that today’s crop of stand-ups can’t compete with past giants like Richard Pryor, George Carlin or Rodney Dangerfield.
There are a lot of good comics out there, no doubt, but as far as the quality of the comics goes, I think what you have is a bunch of situational comics.
What we have now is black comics that work only black crowds, gay comics that do only gay crowds, and southern comics that only work down South, and so on with Asian, Latino, Indian, midgets, etc. The previous generation’s comics were better because they had to make everybody laugh. Richard Pryor could do ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and play the Apollo.
Rock does have a point about our increasingly divided marketplace. Niche networks appeal to niche audiences, and given the proliferation of cable and web sites, people can pick and choose what makes them laugh, what news to watch, etc.
Rock swings and misses regarding the bigger picture. Today’s comedy scene is anemic in part because comedians don’t want to rock the boat – mock the powerful. That means President Barack Obama is mostly off limits. That’s like cutting a comic off at the knees.
What’s worse is the comedy thought police who regulate what stand-ups can and can’t say. Rape jokes are off limits for some. Step out of line and you’ll be in for some good, ol’ fashioned reprogramming.
Just ask Tracy Morgan.
The same holds true for jokes aimed at various demographics. Organizations like GLAAD and the NAACP have their outraged press releases ready in case a comic tells the wrong joke – or one that can be interpreted the wrong way.
Why wouldn’t, say, a southern-born comic stick to playing his or her home state? Who needs the hassle, or in severe cases the career crisis? It’s impossible to defend Michael Richards’ use of the “n-word” in a comedy club a few years back, but did he really deserve to have his career iced for years as a result?
Rock may or may not be interested in any of the above arguments. Then again, when was the last time Rock really made us laugh?