Before They Were Kings Volume 1
Chris Rock, Steve Harvey,
D.L. Hughley, George Wallace and more
Xenon Pictures
60 some minutes

The title of this stand-up comedy DVD is, of course, a reference to Kings of Comedy. It’s the kind of marketing trick that may sound like a rip-off but in this case it most definitely is not. Before They Were Kings Volume 1 features five to six minute sets of some of the best Black comedians around taped some fifteen to twenty years ago before some of them became major headliners and some of them kind of vanished off the radar.

There is not a single set on this comedy DVD that feels like filler. Each standup, even those you are less familiar with because they have moved backstage to become writers or directors, gives a killer performance. The best of an absolutely solid collection is Michael Winslow of Police Academy fame who starts off his set dress as Jimi Hendrix and performs the American national anthem as heard at Woodstock and closes with a great Led Zeppelin bit.

Other funny bits feature a young, flat-topped Chris Rock who does men versus women jokes and comments on white folks’ dirty magazines. Steve Harvey does an original bit on how country music and soul music have the same roots and has this great line: “If you don’t understand a country song? You’re retarded!”

Before They Were Kings, Volume 1 also features a slim but still funny George Wallace. This is where the fact these Evening At The Improv moments show their age with references to Orson Welles’ wine commercial. You also get a bit of a time capsule feel with Arsenio Hall’s references to Michael and Leon Spinks is a still humorous set.

Most of the audience will be familiar with Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley but other Black comics like Charles Cozart -who performs in a very deadpan I look like a crook style-will make you laugh with his take on Rainman as a pimp. There’s also Special K. McCray, Kal Clarke, and Happy Cole there to be rediscovered.

This is one of the few cases where a stand-up comedy DVD featuring some old sets has not aged a bit. This is a solid, solid release.


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