Starring: Chris RockDirected by: Joel Gallen
2004's Never Scared marked the fourth time Chris Rock was given an HBO special, following his first half-hour effort Big Ass Jokes (1993), then the two seminal works: Bring the Pain (1996) and Bigger & Blacker (1999), both of which Rock would parlay into comedy albums, and happen to be two of the funniest stand-up routines I've ever heard.
So I was very hopeful that Never Scared could continue Rock's legacy as one of the best stand-ups of the past 15 years. I've wanted to watch this special for a while now, but the damn thing is always rented when I'm at the video store. Not this time!
A review of a stand-up DVD comes down to one question, so I'll get to it: is it funny? Yes. It is very funny. Rent this DVD, and you will laugh out loud (unless you're really conservative or easily offended). Is it as good as Rock's previous two specials? Not quite.
Rock was nearing his fortieth birthday at the time of the special's taping, which means his focus and maturity levels aren't quite the same as the guy who brought us the tossed salad man. His humour has always had a political slant to it, but now his agenda is even more prevalent, making the middle portion of his special less about comedy, and more about getting a point across. It's here where some may lose interest in the special, as Rock isn't as focused on making the audience laugh as he is focused on making them think. I didn't mind though, since he shares some of my politics, and he was poking fun at America-- which is old-time hobby for all Canadians like me.
He bookends that segment with more humour than you'll get in the average comedy, so you do get your fair share. His opening segments are electric, as he touches on Michael Jackson, hip-hop, and the stripper myth. I particularly enjoyed when he talked about how women will get into any song, no matter how misogynistic, as long as it has a good beat that they can dance to. This is why Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me" was so popular. Women looooooved that song, you know, the one that tells guys to cheat on their women and deny it any way they can? More chicks dug that song than dudes. Meanwhile, you won't catch guys singing along to Blu Cantrell's "Hit Em Up Style".
The final third of his routine was about married life and the differences between husbands and wives. It was pretty funny as well, but probably not the best thing to be watching with my wife. We laughed, but then I worried about all the questions I'd get later (you know, her turning to me when I'm trying to sleep and saying "you don't really think that, do you?"). Luckily, my relationship is strong. If yours isn't, avoid watching this disc with your significant other.
As a bonus to the 80 minute Never Scared routine, the disc also contains the aforementioned Big Ass Jokes. It's decent enough for a few chuckles, but plays more like an EP for his later works, as jokes brought up in Big Ass Jokes will show up more fully realised in Bring the Pain and Bigger & Blacker. What's really strange is that both his 1993 show and his 2004 show contain Michael Jackson molestation jokes, but their each talking about different allegations. Interesting parallel there.