Uncasville, Connecticut –
For years, my dad told me that if either Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock went back on tour, he’d love to see them. Last fall, when Rock announced the 56-show Total Blackout Tour, his first tour since 2008, I knew I had to get tickets. As expected, before a 7,000 person capacity crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Rock killed it.
In the past five years, I’ve been to a number of stand up performances and unfortunately, I’ve seen plenty of high profile comedians display significant decline. I’m looking at you, Jeff Dunham and Ron White. It was pleasant to see Rock, the consummate comedic workhorse, prove himself to be the exception. Coming off a 90-minute performance in Cleveland with Chappelle two nights prior, Rock mounted the stage to reassert himself as the greatest standup alive, performing an hour and 15 minutes of new, biting material.
In preparation for his two Netflix specials, which will pay $40 million altogether, Rock took additional measures to protect his carefully crafted act. Upon entering the arena, fans had to lock their cell phones in green pouches provided by Yondr, all in an effort to avoid any recording or leaking of the performance. This also allowed Rock to command his audience’s full attention, devoid of any swiping, scrolling or selfies that might interrupt his show. Rock has previously spoken about how he moves around on stage to keep his audience constantly engaged, and the removal of cell phones from their line of sight would serve as the next logical step.
After bounding onstage to Jay Z’s “U Don’t Know,” Rock quickly focused on some expected targets: President Donald Trump, police brutality and his controversial stint as host of the Academy Awards last year. All of this, of course, was accompanied by copious amounts of cursing, showing his longtime fans that he has not slowed his relentless pace.
However, in a move that brings to mind Woody Allen, one of his comedic forefathers, Rock interspersed challenging elements of his personal life into the act as well. He went into great depth to address the pain and embarrassment that came from his 2014 divorce, the struggles of raising children in the digital era and his endless pursuit to find God before God finds him.
Rock, consistently one of the most confident comedians on Earth, found some of his strongest and most thought-provoking motifs to be his own shortcomings. He compared marriage to being in a band, where sometimes one person is the lead singer while the other has to play tambourine. He’s not shy about how his failure to accept his role as the occasional tambourine player contributed to the destruction of his 16-year marriage, which was admittedly strained by addiction and infidelity.
He also waxed on the stresses that come with being wired to technology as well as the loneliness that comes with fame when it boils down to money. About three quarters of the way through his routine, he expressed how surreal it was to be in the midst of a custody hearing surrounded by dozens of lawyers and reporters, all of whom woke up to spend the whole day discussing his money. In an ironic way, that’s how he knew he made it.
This is a side of Rock that came through in small doses during Never Scared and Kill the Messenger, but receives nearly 10 minutes of full frontal examination in his latest outing. Using his earlier tambourine analogy, Rock took similar aim at the post-Millennial generation, which is growing up in schools devoid of bullying and an emphasis on being special. While certainly not endorsing bullying, Rock makes the case that no child, not even his own, is inherently special. This was a refreshing reminder that people shouldn’t just expect life to go their way, a stark break from the current era of coddling and participation trophies.
I would be remiss to end this review without mentioning the fact that the funniest joke of the night involved three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep and porn. I won’t say anything more than that, but just be forewarned that it’s coming when his first special drops later this year.