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In June of 1996, in Washington, D.C., comedian/actor/writer/director/author/television host Chris Rock gave a live stand-up comedy performance for HBO called Bring the Pain that finally solidified him an all-around great comedian.  Whether or not you’re a fan of Chris Rock is up to you--but anyone who is, should be more than happy that this classic special hasn’t slipped through the cracks and will now live forever on DVD, with some decent special features.

“Boo if you want to--you know I’m right!”  This is Chris Rock’s response to the boos he gets from his D.C. audience after a Marion Barry joke in the first five minutes of Bring the Pain.  Again, whether or not you like Chris Rock is completely up to you, but it’s hard to deny the truth of most of what he has to say.  He may offend some viewers, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice that Chris Rock makes more sense than most of the talking heads we have on TV today when it comes to politics and society.  Chris Rock has a way of making us think that is thankfully becoming more evident in comedians today--and plus, he’s pretty damn funny.

"How you gonna tell kids not to get high... when the Mayor's on crack!?"
I can’t say enough good things about Bring the Pain.  It’s pretty much perfect stand-up comedy.  Not many people seem to respect stand-up for the art that it is, and Bring the Pain is one of the acts that is most likely to change that attitude.  Aspiring comedians should watch this special over and over again--if they haven’t already--because every ounce of preparation (and in stand-up comedy, there’s a whole lot of preparation) comes across in Chris Rick’s performance.  Every gesture, every facial expression, every eye movement, every step... it’s all vital.  But enough about the cerebral stuff--let’s move on to the comedy.

Every minute of this special is funny--some minutes are slightly less funny than others, but it’s all funny.  It’s all pretty edgy, too.  Chris Rock has always been a little controversial, and you’ll notice this right from the very first set of jokes.  Performing in Washington, D.C., Rock opens with a relentless verbal assault on then-Mayor Marion Barry (who’s had his, uh... problems.)  There’s also a lot of racial humor.  The most racially-themed bit is easily his most controversial.  (It starts out: “There’s a like a civil war going on with black people...”)  I understand how people of all races might be offended by Chris Rock, but if you can get around the rough edges, you’ll probably enjoy Brin the Pain.

There are so many great bits here.  Chapter 3, entitled “The Good Side of Crack”:  “The good side of crack is that if you’re up at the right hour, you can get a VCR for about a dollar-fifty!”  Chapter 6: Rock’s very matter-of-fact rant about prison... “If you live in an old project, a new jail ain’t that bad!”  Chapter 9: Chris Rock on education... “You know what G.E.D. stands for?  Good Enough Diploma!”  Chris Rock on healthy living, Chapter 4: “My big brother’s a junkie alcoholic...  But he doesn’t eat pork cause he says pork’s no good for you!”

Chris Rock fans are like Simpsons fans.  There are a number of select lines or phrases that only people familiar with the material will appreciate.  Chris Rock fans will know what I’m talking about when he uses phrases like... “the friend zone” or “I’m gonna get my learn on.”  This is all funny stuff, and although it’s already seven years old, the material’s not even that dated.  (The only bits that have aged might be the Marion Barry and O.J. Simpson jokes.)

Bring the Pain is presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio.  It’s hard to complain here.  The video is nice and sharp, but not too sharp.  (There are even moments in the beginning when you just barely see, thanks to the spotlight, dust floating around on stage.)  The lighting for the special itself was really well done, and none of the positive visual points are lost in the transfer.  The wide shots are the only problems here, in which there’s sometimes a little noise in the background behind Rock.

"People say don't eat red meat.  No, no--don't eat no green meat!"
There are a few quick moments when I thought the video seemed a just a bit out of focus; a few very quick seconds during Chapter 9, (again, mostly in the wide shots).  But other than that, there’s absolutely nothing distractingly bad about the video.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track here is the only audio track I could find, although the back of the box claims there’s a 5.1 surround track.  If there is a 5.1 track there, it’s pretty well hidden, or I’m just not looking hard enough. There are no audio or setup options on the menu of the disc, so I’m not sure what happened there. No matter, the 2.0 track is just fine.

Chris Rock’s voice is one of his strongest tools on stage.  Cynics could call it annoying, but I call it... attention-getting.  The audio on this disc does its best to put you in the live audience.  Rock’s voice sounds strong and clear, but the best thing about the audio is the sound of the audience.  The laughter never overpowers Rock’s voice, but there are times when you can actually hear individual cheers from individual audience members (Like “You’re right!”).  It’s pretty cool, and it really adds to the experience.

Again, Rock fans should be happy that Bring the Pain was released on DVD at all, but it actually comes with some pretty good supplements--for a stand-up special.

Neslon George interviews Rock
First up is an Exclusive Chris Rock Interview by Nelson George.  This retrospective, in-depth interview runs for a surprising 28 minutes.  As the back of the box says, Nelson George is an award winning author--he’s one of those guys who I know I’ve seen on TV before, I just can’t remember exactly where.  He asks some really good questions, and he doesn’t tiptoe around the controversial aspects of Bring the Pain.  The interview is confrontational or anything--it’s just definitely not simply a commercial for the special.  There’s good stuff here, including lots of laughs and insights that aspiring comedians will probably find helpful.

Next is a weird one, at least for those unfamiliar with Rock’s material.  Bad Phone Sex is a weirdly animated version of Chris Rock’s “bad phone sex” bit.  “There’s nothing worse than bad phone sex...”  It’s pretty funny if you’ve heard the skit before, but the dialog in this animated video (a clip that originally aired on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show) is sort of stifled by the audience’s laughter.

Finally, we get two Chris Rock music videos.  Champagne is a satire (or at least I think it’s meant to be a satire...) of glitzy hip-hop videos, and it’s pretty funny.

"Absolutely, positively--no sex in the champagne room..."
The best video though, is easily No Sex.  “There is no sex in the champagne room.  None.”  This is basically a comedy monologue with a chorus, but it’s really a perfect spoof of the 1997 “inspirational” song “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)”.  You don’t necessarily have to have heard the original song (which I think is unintentionally funny) to get a good laugh from this spoof.  “Cornbread--ain’t nothing wrong with that!”

Rock’s next stand-up special Bigger and Blacker, which aired in 1999, is also available on DVD, but only with trailers and a Chris Rock bio as far as extras go.  We get some good special features here with Bring the Pain, and the audio and video are fine. As a Chris Rock fan, I find it hard to believe that anyone anywhere would not enjoy this special, but I understand that people have their opinions.  Having said that, anybody who finds this guy funny should own this disc.