The Original Kings of Comedy

Directed by Spike Lee
Starring: Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac.
MPAA Rating: R for language and sex related humor.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
August 22, 2000

People forget that before he became a serious movie star, Steve Martin used to pack arenas for his stand-up shows. He was comedy's rock star, drawing bigger crowds than even Richard Pryor or George Carlin. These days, comedy is again confined to clubs and the occasional 2000-seat theatre. No one person can get the draw for an arena, but if you put four top comics on tour together, they will come.

Steve Harvey has put together the most successful comedy tour of all time. He has traveled the country with D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer (Harvey's co-star on "The Steve Harvey Show"), and Bernie Mac, performing to thousands of fans. Despite this incredible success, the "Kings of Comedy" tour received little notice from the mainstream press until Spike Lee announced that he was going to make a concert film.

Using regular TV video cameras, Lee shot their shows at the Charlotte Coliseum on February 26 and 27 of this year. He also got some behind-the-scenes footage at the arena and their hotel. After editing all this together into a two-hour film, Lee (who also produced) got distribution through Paramount's MTV Films, and brought the show to movie theatres across the country.

It would seem that such a concert film would have been better suited for Showtime, but the risk of theatrical distribution is actually paying off, giving Lee his best opening weekend ever. It's no wonder that it works so well. These four comics each have their own fan base, so the theatres are seeing the same synergistic phenomenon that the arenas experienced. In the theatre that I saw it in, the audience regularly broke into applause. The film promotes a highly energetic atmosphere, capturing the feel of going to a live show.

As for the comedy itself, it is mostly quite good. Harvey operates as the host, giving several short bits throughout the show, keeping the crowd pumped. Hughley is the first comic to be introduced, and he gives a great performance. The momentum he generates carries the film through Cedric and Mac, even though their material isn't quite as good. I suppose that was the order of the live show, which seems like an odd structure. Maybe Hughley was just especially good for the cameras, but it doesn't really matter. It's a good show, and a good opportunity for the rest of America to experience The Original Kings of Comedy.

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The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan