Chris Rock: Total Blackout
- Brian Donaldson
- 25 January 2018
Hollywood star calls out public hypocrisy and personal failings in a barnstorming show
As Chris Rock embraces his standing ovation, a montage of US comedy legends including Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield plays behind him. Is he thanking them for breaking the ground that could finally lead to a guy like him playing an enormodome such as Glasgow's Hydro? Or is he, less humbly, saying 'yep, I'm one of you guys now'. Either way, Chris has rocked this particular house as the crowd prepares to head back out into a chilly January night (not before collecting their mobiles from the Yondr Pouch in which they were locked throughout the evening: but don't get some people started on that mild inconvenience).
A lot has happened in the world since Rock last toured the UK a decade ago. Thanking George Bush for being so awful that he helped smooth the path for the election of a black president, he makes only the briefest mention of Obama's successor during a sequence in which he proclaims that bullies might well be a necessary evil. After all, would Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg have made their names for themselves without being on the receiving end of their early peers' cruelty?
Similarly, he teaches his two kids some valuable lessons in preparing themselves for a hostile and intolerant world by making sure the 'hot, heavy and sharp' objects in his home are all white. Trump and the alt-right are clearly in his crosshairs at this point, but he also has plenty to say about the trigger-happy US cops who have been gunning down black Americans: when will they even up the score by taking out a few white kids, Rock wonders? While insisting that he has full respect for the police and the tough job they have, he does question why this seems to be the only profession that seemingly attracts and accommodates 'bad apples.'
Inevitably, he tackles the sexual abuse revelations about some people in his industry which leads him to insist that he would never go anywhere near a work colleague (he namechecks Michelle Wolf, one of his warm-up acts, reassuring her that she's safe), but holds his hands up to the infidelities which led to the breakdown of his 16-year marriage. This eventually brings him to one of the weaker sections of the night when he chucks out a few casual men vs women tropes, but in the main, Rock is so on fire that even a little bit of hack material has no chance of dousing him out.
Giving each section its own headline stamp by repeating phrases over and over such as 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' (in which he takes apart the gun lobby's key mantra) or 'trying to find god before god finds me' (as he chats about the little bit of religion he's sourcing while hilariously debunking the bible). Rock is a sprightly 52-year-old with a glint in the eye and cheeky grin of someone, say, 40 years younger, as he probes around the edges to find the pressure points of a largely liberal audience (in a room as huge as this there must be some Farage / Trump fans lurking).
It may well be another decade before Rock returns among us but, assuming the planet is still here, the players on the world's stage will hopefully look, sound and act a lot differently than they do now. With someone as hotwired as Chris Rock is to call out hypocrisy and flaws across humankind, he will surely find as much to mock in a more caring world than we have right now.
Chris Rock: Total Blackout is on tour until Sunday 28 January. Reviewed at SSE Hydro, Glasgow.