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Chris Rock

Chris Rock, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, May 29 2008

AT the weekend he was breaking the UK record for stand-up comedy by playing to more than 30,000 people at the O2 Arena. Hell of an achievement for someone with a low media profile over here.
While Eddie Murphy, who discovered him at the age of 18, is the easiest comparison, Chris Rock hasn't anywhere near the same mainstream TV or movie weight as his mentor. In Britain at least.
Despite the few film roles and the series Everybody Hates Chris, which is buried somewhere in the TV listings, his reputation has really grown to O2 sell-out status through word-of-mouth.
So, like I say, whipping the likes of Lee Evans, Little Britain and Eddie Izzard for attendances in their own territory at a single show, is something else.
And last night night it was just a couple of thousand of us.
As a result - and the £40 ticket price - expectations were high. And I can't believe anyone left grumbling for a refund.
His routine was a mix of astute observations about race, sex, work and war, that graduated in to the explicit over the 90 minutes.
But Rock is not Chubby Brown offensive.
He talks about p**** and d*ck, Murphy style but it's not for the sake of it.
He blossoms with a routine on when white men are justified using the 'N' word ("not really"). Mostly Rock scores not with crudity but the lunacy of the current human condition. For instance, we spend money on things we used to get free -- water and ringtones. The difference between having a job and a career -- who hasn't been so miserable at work that they sit on the toilet just to kill time? A pay rise means a poker style challenge to raise our debt.
Life for the modern man is hard - when we pass a homeless man with a dog, we are more inclined to feel sorry for the dog. Desperate Housewives should be renamed Ungrateful Bitches. You get the idea.
The set leans heavily on what is close to home for Rock -- the presidential elections ("John McCain is so old he used to own Sidney Poitier before setting him free"), Britney, OJ Simpson, Wesley Snipes... but he tries to shoehorn a few (at times clumsy) references for us: Amy Winehouse, Frank Bruno, John Terry, darts as a sport, our boozing habits...
It sounds like he has a cold, rasping and snotty throughout, which may explain why his trademark high-pitch yelping wasn't anywhere near as annoying as I'd been told to expect.
What is annoying - and the only criticism of the night - is the late start (ten minutes) and the half hour interval that follows adept warm-up Mario Joyner's 20 minutes.
Chris Rock isn't as brash as you may have read but he's as good as his reputation. Next time it'll be the Arena. Only then will we realise just how special last night was.

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