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TV REVIEW CHRIS ROCK NEVER SCARED

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					TV REVIEW | 'CHRIS ROCK: NEVER SCARED'


Talking the Talk (and Defining It, Too)
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN

Published: April 17, 2004




In "Chris Rock: Never Scared," which will have its premiere tonight on HBO, the
comedian posits two vocabularies: black and white. This tactic will be familiar to those
who have heard Mr. Rock's 1996 litany of distinctions between black people and a subset
of blacks he designated with racist slang.

The definitions he makes in his new stand-up act are sanctimonious but mightily
inspired. He distinguishes marital sex, which he defines in stultifying Latinate words
like intercourse and vagina, from single man sex, which he characterizes in colloquial
terms. He also defines "bootlegging" in opposition to "drug dealing," explaining that the
first is a white term for the second. (Bootlegging, to Mr. Rock, has been ennobled; it's
where white fortunes began.)

He goes on to define "rich" versus "wealthy": "Wealth is passed down from generation to
generation. Rich is something you could lose with a crazy son with a drug habit."

Got it? There's a lot of drilling and repetition here. Several times Mr. Rock shouts, as if
reprimanding a remedial class: "I'm talking about rich! I ain't talking about wealthy." By
the end of the act, you feel submissive, convinced and drunk on loud, entertaining
sermonizing.

With his love of verbal force, Mr. Rock might be expected uniformly to favor short, sharp
words — he heartily disdains fellatio in favor of a more evocative equivalent — but his
jokes are trustworthy because he is not, as he says, "just one thing": he often advocates a
prim term over a more wanton one. He says being wealthy, a word once discouraged in
some New York publications as euphemistic, beats being rich.

"Shaq is rich," he says of the basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, whom he imagines among
those who blow all their money on cars, jewels and rims. "The white man that signs his
check is wealthy."

Mr. Rock is not especially audacious just because he brings up race. Discussions of race
are rampant, and people who broach the subject aren't heroes anymore.

Yet there are still strained, punctilious circles in which the topic doesn't come up, and in
which people are coyly described — black curly hair, etc. — without explicit reference to
their race. As Mr. Rock demonstrates with relish, American English is segregated. Black
or white, we pride ourselves on the words that we won't use, leaning instead on shabby or
deceitful ones. These words come to define us. Mr. Rock sees this as hypocrisy, and it
provides him with an excellent occasion for indignation and satire.

CHRIS ROCK: NEVER SCARED

HBO, tonight at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9 Central time.

Executive produced by Michael Rotenberg, Joel Gallen and Chris Rock; co-producer,
Kali Londono; director, Joel Gallen; written by Mr. Rock; production designer, John
Calkins; lighting, Allen Branton. A production of Tenth Planet in association with Chris
Rock Enterprises Inc.

WITH: Chris Rock.

				
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