"Buckle up y'all. It's about to get wild in here!"
Since the release of the Spike Lee-directed concert film The Original Kings Of Comedy, a number of urban comedians involved with that film have seen their stars rise, but none more so than Cedric the Entertainer. Cedric, who toiled in relative obscurity until the release of Kings, has recently broken into mainstream Hollywood films (including his scene-stealing turn in this fall's Intolerable Cruelty) and television sitcoms, even going so far as to be given his own variety series, Cedric the Entertainer Presents in prime time. And because he no doubt understands the difficulties that young comedians face in today's competitive atmosphere, he has in turn used his celebrity to provide recognition to a wealth of upstart comedians he dubs his "Starting Lineup."
As part of Urbanworks' Platinum Comedy Series, this is the second DVD release to feature the "Starting Lineup" comedians, and is taken from a concert recorded in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2002. Cedric functions as emcee of the proceedings, and the talents of four of his "Starting Lineup" are on display: Leon Rogers, Nema Williams, Rodney Perry, and Prescott Gilliam. Each of the comedians is given roughly ten minutes to showcase their skills, and Cedric manages to get in about fifteen minutes of material in between.
Whenever you put together a variety of comedians on a single bill, the results are undoubtedly going to be hit-or-miss, and such is the case here. Leon Rogers, an energetic and very talented personality, kicks things off with musings about the current state of pop music and Michael Jordan's return to basketball. His imitation of a white alternative rock performer is spot-on and, consequently, hilarious, while his recreation of Michael Jordan's signature walk should get a laugh even from those who've never witnessed the real thing. Rogers is energetic and his material is terrific, and if there's anyone on the DVD who deserves a shot at the big-time, it's him.
On the other hand, the next two comedians, Nema Williams and Rodney Perry, are both instantly forgettable. Williams does a couple of bits about what it is to be white in Oakland, California, but they don't register. Perry, on the other hand, is so energetic that he seems to be covering up the fact that he doesn't actually have much material, and most of his jokes don't even contain punchlines.
But the disc finishes off strong with Prescott Gilliam, who at first seems to be stuck in the Perry mold of over-enthusiasm, but picks himself up toward the end of his routine with some dynamite (and sexually explicit) material that can't really be repeated here. Suffice to say that just when you think it's time for Cedric to recruit some new performers, Gilliam restores your faith in his ability to spot talent. It's very strong stuff.
Urbanworks' presentation of the concert is pretty much what you'd expect. The video is presented in full frame, and for the most part doesn't look much better than a VHS tape, but for a production like this, it hardly seems to matter. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, and the surround mix is, again, adequate and nothing more.
There are no extras on the DVD, save for some previews of the other Platinum Comedy Series entries.
Anyone who enjoys urban comedy and, specifically, Cedric the Entertainer, should certainly consider checking out the second "Starting Lineup" disc, as the stuff from Cedric, Rogers, and Gilliam is worthy of eliciting a few chuckles and even the occasional belly laugh. $19.99, the disc's list price, is way too much to pay for just an hour of material (only about 60% of it actually funny), but for fans of the genre, it should make for a solid night's rental. Case dismissed.
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