on TV, there are three different regularly-televised showcases for black
comedians. On HBO, Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy supposedly
spotlights up-and-coming talent with an edgy twist. On Starz, Martin Lawrence’s
1st Amendment Stand Up
does….roughly the same thing. And finally, and most embarrassingly, BET’s Comic
pretends to do the same, but in fact recycles footage of the worst
black comedians imaginable shuffling and jiving to the extent that I tell
people I’m Hispanic for a day or so after any given episode airs. But not only
are these shows conceptually similar, but they’re pretty much Xeroxes of each
other as far as content as well. If there’s any undone variations on the “white
people do it like this/black people like thiiiiiiiis
school of comedy left, you’re sure to see it wash up on these shows. And when
they finish pummeling that dead horse, they move on to obvious observational humor
that’s pretty much on par with any conversation in a black barbershop. Is it
actually impossible for black humor to evolve? Will we never have a Bill Hicks
or Monty Python or Steven Wright of our own? Did Richard Pryor pretty much
close the door on innovation in black comedy?

I refuse
to believe that the answer to each of those questions must be yes, even though that is the current correct answer. But
black culture is so insular and stubborn, it makes it mighty hard for something
– anything – different to slip through the cracks. What’s even more depressing
is that even the most talented black comedians get sucked into this conservative
paradigm. I’d certainly consider Charlie Murphy to be amongst that “most
talented” tier given his writing and performing on Dave Chappelle’s
now-defunct TV show. And yet, when it comes to his own film work, his CV reads
like an indictment against him for crimes against humanity. So, fresh off of his
brother’s triumph that was Norbit and right after he gets done
with the 34 other low-budget crap hood flicks he’ll star or cameo in this
month, Murphy has now got a new film coming out through Lionsgate called Frankenhood
(Variety calls it “Frakenhood,” but I
heard of this a while back, and it is indeed Franken) about two desperate
streetball players played by Murphy and fellow comedian DeRay Davis. They don’t
have the skills to get a badly-needed win in a tourney, so they draw from their
day jobs as morgue workers and, with the help of a scientist, re-animate a
large corpse (played by real-life MMA fighter and Elektra tree-trunk
catcher Bob Sapp) who will somehow make them winners. I gotta call bullshit on
this as I’ve seen hack men from Bill Laimbeer to whatever 7-foot Eastern
European phenom is the flavor-of-the-day, and these motherfuckers are not game
changers. But I’m not writing the film.

It just
makes me sad to see top-notch guys like Murphy doing work on par with low-rent “rap-tors”
like E-40 or Snoop Dogg. I understand he has bills to pay, and that motivates
99 percent of his awful decisions. But there’s gotta be a floor somewhere where
this stuff can’t get any worse. As awful as it sounds, I’m wishing for a
large-scale collapse of this genre much like hip-hop is doing on the Billboard
charts right now. I don’t think any of this gets any better until we tear it
down, clear out the bullshit, and start fresh. Unfortunately for me, these
films, including Frankenhood, are so utterly cheap that they’re guaranteed profitability
no matter how bad they are, and thus they’ll likely survive any sort of
reformation. That’s fine. Just stop dragging down truly talented people with ‘em.