This doesn't mean that I don't think comedians David Alan Grier and DL Hughley deserve their own shows ...
What am I saying? They're the last two black comics who should have their own shows. Katt Williams should have his own show before these two and I'm not even a fan, so ... seriously cable networks -- Grier and Hughley?
It's not that I didn't think they could pull off a good show. I know they can't pull off a good show. I watched most of Grier's Chocolate News and Hughley's DL Hughley Breaks the News through my fingers.
Both have the ability to be funny in their moments, but I don't think Grier's been funny since he stop directly working with someone for "Wayans" as a last name. And Hughley, to me, has never been funny. I've always found his comedy mean spirited, petty and unimaginative. (But he was really nice that one time I interviewed him for work!) But Comedy Central and CNN did not ask me which black comics would be good at a politically-based comedy show.
(Aisha Tyler, anyone? She's smart and funny. Anyone! Did they even bother calling her? Chris Rock? Steve Harvey? Wanda Sykes? -- Non sequitor: God, I'd LOVE to watch Wanda Sykes do a political comedy show with Aisha Tyler. They could invite Monique and do an all black girl parody of The View. Jasmine Guy could play the Barbara Walters character! Wait ... no one steal my show idea! I have to make some phone calls! -- Marlon Wayans could do a show. Hell, even Sinbad or Arsenio Hall would have been good and both those guys need a second bite at the apple.)
But nope, no one asked me. So this is what we have:
A recent skit from Grier's "Chocolate News" on "Thugs Against High Gas Prices."
A clip of DL Hughley talking to Freddie Mac, not the mortgage giant, but "Ashy Larry" as Freddie the Mac Daddy of Federal Loan Financing.
Both shows are "edgy," and by edgy I mean profane because, really, that's appears to be the only kind of edgy that matters. Grier, while not exactly Eddie Murphy, manages to pull off playing a multitude of characters, but seeing him still makes me think of In Living Color and thinking of In Living Color only makes me wonder if Chocolate News would be more palatable to me if it was Damon and Keenan running the show again? Wouldn't it be better to see seven black performers with a job rather than two? Or to just see all those Wayanses hire themselves to put on a show again? Yeah, "Little Man" was an embarrassment, but I say, c'mon, TV, give them another chance! They can be good again!
As for Hughley's show I was amazed by the "shut your mouth bitches" line from Ashy Larry, if only because I'm watching CNN. It's one thing to be wild and raunchy on Comedy Central, home of everything raunchy in comedy, they have no morals. They show Sarah Silverman with a potty mouth and a bed-wetting problem, South Park and that gross Kenny Versus Spenny thing that I hope to dear God was canceled.
Seeing Grier play a transsexual whose boob keeps popping out is actually at home in that environment. But Hughley is his own island on a network that is primarily about straight news. And it is surreal and painful to watch actual reporters interact with Hughley as opposed to joke reporters like the ones on Chocolate News and The Daily Show. Real reporters are not funny and I image the ones who showed up for Hughley's premiere episode were wondering why CNN was wasting their news gathering time? You work hard, you pound the pavement, you pester sources and you beg your producer for camera time and this is what they give you?
Hughley seems out of place on the network, even if he did get a newsworthy nugget out of yet another defecting Republican, this time former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan who said last week that he is voting for Barack Obama on Hughley's show. I hate to say this, but ... Glen Beck's show made more sense. Now, I don't like Glen Beck and Beck has run off to FOX News, leaving his old gig at CNN Headline News, but Beck was/is supposed to be funny and did a political/news-of-the-day interview show that didn't make me want to drink Drano. It would have made more sense for CNN to find someone not necessarily like Beck, but someone with his basic skills set, like Whoopi Goldberg, Dennis Miller or Lewis Black, heck, Eddie Murphy might do it if you ask nice enough, but someone who has the ability to be funny and can also pull off a decent interview.
Naturally, I wasn't the only person "amazed" by Hughley's show. Dr. Boyce Watkins (and many other critics, primarily black) are pretty much ready to grab the pitchforks and torches and send DL back to the comedy plantation from wince he came.
In the following clip, Watkins shouts out every black comedian as being cool-to-great with the exception of Hughley who he says he's never been impressed by.
"You don't bring a gun to a baby shower. You don't put a liquor sign in a church," Watkins gripes, before getting into the flip side of it, that CNN has had many black commentators and journalists, yet the first African American to get their own show on CNN is DL, a comedian. Watkins name drops Roland Martin, mentioning that he's been on a regular on CNN for a while yet has no show.
Um ... yeah. I noticed that too.
Here's Watkins' rant in full where he declares DL America's latest "nappy headed ho" in reference to statements DL made during the infamous Don Imus/Rutgers Women's Basketball team scandal. (Fast-forward to 1:52 minutes in to skip Watkins rambling about his recent trips around the country.)
Officially, as a lover of the First Amendment and a believer in our often messed up free market economy, I am all for Grier and Hughley getting the same opportunities to humiliate themselves and other black people on television just as countless individuals have done before. Their shows might get better. It might pave the way to Aisha Tyler eventually having her own show, but I'm probably not going to make the point to pencil in Hughley and Chocolate News as must-see-TV unless something revolutionary happens in the writing of the shows. These shows were not made for me.
Which takes me to Watkins' other concern about DL -- that this show, much like CNN's "Black In America" and DL's statements about Don Imus, aren't for or about black people -- that this is humor insulting black Americans to delight a non-black audience. Is Watkins right? Whereas I, the women at What About Our Daughters and Watkins saw something of concern, David Zurawik, a critic with The Baltimore Sun, thought the premiere showed promise.
(I)t looks like CNN could have a winner in its new comedy show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. And more important, Saturday night television and its audience could be enriched by Hughley's engaging and non-conventional take on American life -- if the cable channel gives the production time to mature and find its voice.
Is this a case of black Snobs like myself and Watkins being too hard on a pair of successful black comedians or is this yet another case of great for the performer, bad for all of blackness played out in front of a live studio audience yet again?