Brutal honesty is the new trend in standup comedy, and I’m here for it.
In 2016, Bo Burnham brought meta-analysis and introspection to the stage with his Netflix original “Make Happy.” In late 2017, Dave Chappelle tore deep into racial tensions and why he disappeared from the public light for nearly a decade in “Equanimity/The Bird Revelation.” In an era in which more and more inner demons of Hollywood’s funny men are being revealed, candor is becoming a necessity on the mic. Chris Rock knows this and doesn’t hold back.
In “Tamborine,” directed by Burnham, Rock gets realer than I’ve ever heard him before. He opens up about his collapsed 19-year marriage to Malaak Compton, his now-ex-wife. To an average comedian, such a hard subject like a messy divorce would be awkward to get laughs at, let alone applause. But Rock is no average Joe; he’s one of the best comedians to ever step on stage. Even when Rock admits to cheating on his wife with three women, he manages to find light in the darkness and that’s what makes him special. We know he’s wrong, but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh with him.
But it’s not all gloom and fallout, Rock stops the knee-slappers to deliver some advice to couples still going at it: “If you’re gonna love, love hard or get the fuck out.”
Rock finds himself on more familiar soil with the topic of race, which has skyrocketed to the national forefront in his 10 years of stand-up absence. Rock separates himself from the pack by tying his grapples with racism to everything. He refuses to separate it as a specter that’s haunting society, because why would he? Racism is intertwined with everything that Rock does as a black man in America, and he makes sure to relate that to his family. “Ever since my kids were born, I’ve been getting them ready for the white man,” Rock tells the 800-person audience.
In contrast to recent specials, Rock only spends a couple of minutes on President Trump, showing that you don’t need to knock the most pressing topic to make an impact.
What struck home the hardest when I watched “Tamborine” was Rock’s bit on gun violence. The special was taped at Brooklyn’s Academy of Music in November, just a month after the Las Vegas night shooting while the gun violence debate was still stirring. It died down for a little bit and then on Feb. 14, “Tamborine” was released on Netflix and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting happened.
“This gun shit ain’t going nowhere, O.K.?” Rock observes. “There ain’t never gonna be no gun control. You talk about it too long, you will get shot.” Ain’t that the truth.
Rock doesn’t let serious topics get him or you down. He shakes them around until you laugh, and that’s what you have to do in times like these.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.