Chris Rock goes for greatness at Park Theater

Chris Rock performs at the Park Theater.
Jason Harris

Four and a half stars

Chris Rock June 10, Park Theater

Even before Chris Rock walked onstage at Park Theater Saturday night, his intent was clear. Images of album covers by comedy legends flashed across the screen—Don Rickles, Godfrey Cambridge, Joan Rivers and more. Rock has already taken his place in that pantheon, so what's left for him for him to do but continue to push himself to become the greatest of all time?

The manic pacing that was Rock’s signature during his early specials has given way to a slower, more methodical pace. The big act-outs are now reserved for punctuating major moments, like when the comic spoke about the inequality of partners in marriage. He explained that sometimes one partner sings lead while the other plays tambourine … and if it's your job to play tambourine, play the sh*t out of it. He then danced across the stage, miming the action as he yelled, "Tambourine, tambourine, tambourine!"

Marriage and relationships were a big part of the set, as Rock resets his life following a divorce. He admitted his infidelities, and described how old he often feels when talking to younger celebrities. Pop princess Rihanna, he claimed, treated him as she would an aunt. She didn't even recognize him as a "dick-carrying member" of society.

Much of Rock's best work has stemmed from his incisive look into social injustices, current events, and just how f*cked up things are in this country. This night was no different. His thoughts on gun control hearken back to his vintage work on the topic. In the past, he said we shouldn't raise the price of guns, but that each bullet should cost $5,000—thereby really making people think about shooting someone before they do it. On this night, he took on the argument that people need guns because they have the right to protect their property. He agreed in principle, but pointed out that all the mass murders that have been committed in the U.S. have not been by property owners, but by guys living with their mothers. He suggested that to own a gun, one must pay a mortgage.

Naturally, Donald Trump was a major topic. Rock philosophized that George W. Bush was a great figure in black history because his tenure led directly to the country voting for Obama. He assumed that after Trump, our next president will be Jesus. Considering the last regime, he surmised, "Obama was like some hot chick you knew you had no business f*cking." And as for Trump: "Now we're back to Pam," a partner incapable of pleasing us.

Other bits included the shooting of black teenagers by cops, seeing the poverty of Jamaica before reaching a lush resort and one-upping his ex-wife by introducing the kids to his celebrity friends. Each one was jaw-dropping in how well they were formed.

This was possibly Rock’s best work since 1999’s Bigger & Blacker, if not Bring the Pain, the seminal 1996 special that launched Rock into the comedic stratosphere. As he left the stage, the video monitor behind showed those legends again waving goodbye to their crowds—Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams. Chris Rock is there, man. The path he’s carving now will ensure he can be sized up against anybody.

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