Know Your History
This short (83 min.) act has comedian Paul Mooney sitting on a stool, from which he never strays. He holds the mike with both hands under his mouth and emits no wild gestures, body acting, pacing, impressionistic voices, stereotypical black language or intonation, or any of the other usual stand-up techniques. He just sits there and delivers very well thought-out, very funny commentary on race in America. He was a writer for Richard Pryor but his style is not personal like Pryor’s, but more sociological. He reminds me of Shelly Berman or even Lennie Bruce. The material is completely original, not a rehash of standard black race jokes, and it is uniformly insightful. The stories are not wild exaggerations, like, for example, much of Wanda Sykes’ material. Instead they focus on irony, hypocrisy, and pretension. Of course the main theme is that white people are all racists and blacks are all victims. His overall message seems to be something like, “If black people think they are finally joining middle-class, mainstream culture, here is your wakeup call. You are still black.” Yet the fact that that is a joke sends another message at the same time. Subtle stuff. There was one misstep where I thought he was way off base with some gratuitous racial insults about Asians that afforded no insight, but it could have been an ethnic thing I just missed. I also suspect that the DVD is edited/censored because while the subtitle is “Jesus was black…so was Cleopatra” there is not a word about either character in the act. Too bad for that.