The Wang Theatre was awash in red and green holiday lights over the weekend, but unless you were seated inside the venue, you may have never been able to guess that the room was in the midst of a total blackout.
Chris Rock, who needs no introduction listing his many accomplishments in the world of comedy, brought his highly-anticipated Total Blackout tour to Tremont Street for a pair of shows (November 25 and 26), and while this was his first trip to a Boston stage in a number of years, it was as if the Rock never stopped rolling.
In the crowd, a fairly even mix of white, black, Latino, Asian and Jewish communities filled the Wang on Sunday, representing Rock’s evolution and graduation to his status as a “global comic.” There was an energy that felt similar to pre-church fellowship, as Yondr bags disconnected every fan in attendance from the outside world for a little while, making verbal exchanges amongst the crowd more attractive, as they waited for Pastor Rock to deliver his take on the foibles of American society — sort of like the gospel according to Chris.
To get the crowd buzzing, Jersey native Ardie Fuqua and Michelle Wolf, whose debut stand-up special airs on HBO this Saturday (December 2), both brought their best material on race issues and Trump, while Fuqua riffed on comparisons between drunken men and women, as well as his near-fatal crash he experienced alongside Tracy Morgan in 2014. Wolf mused on her own disdain for the idea of having kids, but admitted that it’s still important to consider a mother’s health following childbirth, quipping that “childbirth isn’t a miracle, it’s a natural disaster,” and if it was treated as such, maybe women’s health would be taken seriously.
The politics, and ribbing of social justice issues were in no short supply as the lights dimmed to welcome Rock to the stage, and the crowd greeted him with a booming applause, which gradually turned into a standing ovation for the New York native.
“COMFORT IS THE POISON” — the message that beamed bright and clear behind Rock would set the tone for the evening, as the Grown Ups actor wasted no time laying it on thick with the political and social justice-centered material.
Starting off with a couple of sports jokes (“Y’all got Kyrie, and all you had to do was trade a midget with a bad hip! How the fuck did that happen?!”), Rock quickly switched gears to a quick riff on how he hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone, and how the current climate surrounding the issue has led him to be way more careful than he really has to be around women.
The cringing material hit full force as bits about how he “wants to see white mothers crying next to Al Sharpton” when their kids get shot by police, how cops must have a “dead n***** calendar” and how “Justice For Chad” should also be in the news.
After moving on to topics like gun control, high supermarket prices (“Fuck Whole Foods, I’d like some half foods, please…”) and how he thinks bullying is necessary in school, Rock relocated to more personal territory: Raising his kids, going through a divorce, and coming to terms with his addiction to pornography presented a noticeable sea change in the format of his performance, all the while keeping the crowd as uncomfortable as possible, but as intrigued as they could possibly be.
The more high-pitched his voice became, the harder the laughs were.
It felt as if every single set up and punchline were laughed at equally as hard throughout his new hour, and the only time that incessant laughter wavered was at the moment that Rock questioned whether God makes mistakes — a shot to the heart of Boston.
“Of course God makes mistakes! Have ya ever gone to Dorchester?!”
The line garnered a mix of jeers soaked in Dorchester pride and raucous cheering at the expense of the Boston neighborhood. And even through a heckler interrupted his set mid-stride, causing him to lose his train of thought, Rock soldiered on, with help from the audience, to get back on track and deliver the remainder of his show with such precision and comedic grace, that once he regained his composure, he was met with the type of applause offered to a gymnast as they stick a tough landing.
Kevin Hart can hashtag it all he wants, but the truth of the matter is that Chris Rock is a true comedy rock star — his new hour of material shining brighter than his stud earrings — and his status was only further inflated as he made his exit with a mic drop, and being thanked the only way a rock star comedian can be: With another lengthy standing O.
Wang marquee photo by Jason Greenough; follow him @dadbodvanilla.