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Eddie Griffin Makes Valid Social Commentary, But Misses the Mark on Laughs in “Undeniable”


Eddie Griffin returned to the stage Friday night for his first full-length stand-up special since “You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It” back in 2011. The veteran comedian pays homage to his 30-year-career in Showtime’s “Undeniable” and the friends he’s met along the way, namely fellow funnyman Charlie Murphy. And while Eddie certainly makes valid commentary on everything from the current state of our country to the male-female dynamic in relationships, this was nowhere near his best work.

The current Trump Administration and the emboldening of racist white Americans was the first topic he touched on out the gate, and he got some serious belly laughs while making fun of the “orange”-in-chief, allowing us to reminisce about the gorgeous man and wife who preceded this fool in the White House. However, that is about where the consistent laughs ended. Eddie hit (and always hits) the nail on the head with regard to race relations and how problematic they are at this juncture, but he failed to make it truly funny this time around.

Where Eddie fell flat in this special was the lack of originality in his content. He made the same, tired jokes about women “taking half” after a divorce, men’s jealousy (wanting their women to “leave” their sexiest features at home in a drawer before going out with the girls), Mexican folks being hard workers by nature, and white men’s envy of Black men’s superior sexual prowess. And while those jokes came with his signature, over-the-top, classic Eddie Griffin-style delivery, it simply wasn’t enough to make old feel like new, or even something we haven’t heard literalyl hundreds of times before.

While the hour-and-fifteen-minute-long special was punctuated with a few gut-busting “leave Eddie’s show with a 6-pack”-type laughs, we are accustomed to those laughs going strong the whole time he’s on stage. For example, Griffin does a quick bit about halfway through the show where a hypothetical Black president introduces white slavery as a form of revenge, but learns his plan has backfired when it is discovered that white people make unproductive, lazy slaves. That bit had me (and the audience) in stitches… but then we don’t get another laugh like that at least a solid ten minutes.

The median audience age seemed to correlate well with those who are familiar with Eddie’s career, i.e. middle-aged and older folks, and that’s likely the demographic he is catering to. And maybe that’s all he was trying to accomplish with this special – recycling his most historically successful material, and sprinkling it with just enough modern relevance, as a thank you to those fans that have been in it with him for the long haul, rather than showing out with a ton of fresh new content.

At the end of his special, Eddie tells us “if you were offended, I wasn’t talking to you,” hinting that the problem with the world today is that people take themselves too seriously and are unable to find the humor in our differences and instead let them divide us. While I’m sure many of us agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment, and we can all agree that, without a doubt, Eddie Griffin is a true pioneer in urban comedy, those of us for whom comedy acts as an ab workout may have left “Undeniable” disappointed that the sentiment didn’t come with more laughs.

 

– Courtney Quigley

 

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