Last night Kish and I went to see Chris Rock with Mr. and Mrs. Jersey Cavalier. Rock is on his new, “Total Blackout” tour, and Columbus is one of the first stops. In fact, he’s got another show here tonight.
Rock was flat-out hilarious, but if you’re going to the show, let me offer a word to the wise. Don’t take your cell phone! Presumably because Rock doesn’t want any pictures taken during the show, or annoying rings from the audience, or recordings of any part of the show, all cell phones are taken and placed into Yondr pouches that are then locked. People get to keep their bagged and locked phones with them, but they can’t use them until they walk to the unlocking station at the end of the show. The Virginia Cavalier graciously walked all of our phones back to our office, which is nearby, so we didn’t have to hassle with the locking and unlocking, which expedited our departure from the theater.
This phone-locking process caused two interesting effects. First, the area outside the Palace Theater was an absolute scrum before the show. Security did nothing to put people into orderly lines, so you basically had a mob of impatient people who didn’t know why it was taking so long to get into the show, pushing and jostling and hoping the show didn’t start before they got to their seats. It was a totally unnecessary melee that could have been avoided by some decent planning and security — which presumably will come later on the tour. For now, my suggestion is to get to the show early.
Second, after the first two warm-up acts, there was a 20-minute intermission before Rock came on. Imagine — in the modern world, a 20-minute intermission in which people can’t use their cell phones to check emails and text messages, post a selfie to Facebook, and otherwise pass the time! When the intermission started, people seemed confused by the absence of their cell phone security blankets and unsure of what to do. Ultimately, they ended up actually talking to each other, or intently watching the backdrop slide show of covers of vintage comedy albums. The lack of cell phones sure made that 20-minute intermission seem a hell of a lot longer, but by the time it was over everybody was definitely primed for the show.
As for Rock, he was brilliant. The topics he addressed were wide-ranging, encompassing racism, the police, guns, his own celebrity status, the Trump era, religion, his daughter’s freshman orientation, the need for bullies, his divorce, men and women, and of course sex — with a lot of other subjects touched in between. He’s got a knack for looking at the world in a different way and then capturing his observations in hysterical one-liners. He’s got to be one of the best stand-up comedians to ever grace the stage, period.
A few other points about Rock. First, he’s the consummate professional. Those of us, like Kish and me, who sat in the cheap seats in the back of the theatre appreciated his carefully modulated volume and clear delivery, designed to reach every corner of the venue. He paces back and forth, so everybody can get a good look, and gave the people in the front row high-fives both before and after the show. How many big stars will do that?
Second, although Rock uses more profanity than any other comedian I’ve seen live — in the barrage of MFs and f-words, you quickly start to not even notice the “shits” — in his performance the obscenities somehow seem less profane. They’re just part of the act, helping to set up the one-liners, providing segues from one topic to another, and preserving Rock’s urban street cred. And, in a way, the profanity masks the fact that some of what Rock has to say isn’t in line with the current PC worldview. He’s the detached observer, skewering both the silly justifications of the pro-gun lobby and the bland reassurance offered by school administered with equal flair. His willingness to tilt against all sides is one of the things that makes his shows so interesting.
I’ve been to a number of stand-up shows, and the show last night was the funniest I’ve ever seen. It’s a must-see if you live near one of the towns on the tour.