A few days after the “slap heard ‘round the world” at Oscars, I just had to buy a ticket to see Chris Rock. I had seen him on his Tambourine tour at Richmond, Virginia’s Altria Theater with Drew/Brometheus, Maggie, and Sherrie (RIP) and found it funny and insightful, so I figured why not? I had never gone to a comedy show solo, but there’s a first time for everything.
DAR Constitution Hall is a regal venue with stylish carpeting and architecture. I don’t have pictures because we had to lock our cell phones in cases (no videotaping!). Usually, when I’m solo, I’ll read articles on my cell phone or read a book. But, no bags either, so no books. I did settle for writing in my notepad and making observations. I did see a nice diversity of cultures there, including a group of what appeared to be Indians. And they were enjoying the show. I did see one other solo person, a young woman in glasses and ripped jeans who barreled through the couples and groups to get to her seat. The way I look at it, when traveling solo, you’ve gotta be dominant.
I didn’t care for Rick Ingraham. While insult comedy is his specialty, I didn’t like the stereotypes of Asians he presented (“you’re all engineers, right?”) and his calling out of the dude there by himself as “creepy,” even if they were audience plants. But that’s comedy, so what can you do?
Chris Rock immediately followed, and his shows seemed to follow a structure. He starts with political humor, riffing on current “wokeness” and “victimhood.” The selfishness of non-maskers came up, as did the idiots who stormed the capitol on 1/6/21. From there, he got into the personal, like with parenting, and I love that story on how he told his daughter’s school to expel her for breaking an important rule, and how, as a result, she became less entitled. While I’m adamantly childfree by choice, I wish the parents of some of my students would follow Rock’s example.
When he got into relationships (the typical closing routine of his act), I couldn’t disagree more. Men are supposed to pay for everything? I can get on that in situations where the gender pay gap applies (men do still make more than women, and if that’s the case in the relationship, the scales should be balanced), but in some situations only. Why do men have to be the pursuers/hunters in relationships? And do all women want to be pursued? Do some want to do the pursuing? Are men less than men if they don’t have to pursue? When Rock said that “women want to be taken care of,” there was a smattering of applause.
In a previous blog, I shamed Rock for chiding his audience to “settle down” when he seemed to be unhappy in his marriage, and indeed, he did divorce from his wife in 2016, largely due to his cheating and pornography addiction. In his Tambourine special, he embodied regret and essentially told his audience, “Do as I say, not as I did in order to maintain your relationships.” He mentioned that he’s single again, and he stated one line, “Women say all the time ‘I don’t need a man’ but you never hear a man say ‘I don’t need a woman.’ I need a relationship!”
I love to analyze people. So, here’s my “pop psychological” take on the roots of that statement: Chris was born in 1965. He was probably raised with the idea that “you need a spouse.” In his 1996 special, Bring the Pain, when he was just marrying his wife, Malaak Compton, he said, “You gotta settle down.” Eight years later, in Never Scared, he said “You’re either married and bored or single and lonely.” My guess is that he had grown bored of his married routine, hence the pornography and the cheating.
Now he’s single again. A few minutes after stating “I need a relationship,” he said, “There are times when I don’t want a relationship and sometimes I do.” Is it possible that Chris Rock is a Single Person at Heart and unaware of it? Perhaps he “needs a relationship” because that’s what he’s been taught? He does go to movies solo. While that doesn’t necessarily categorize him as a SPAH, I wonder if he’s just wired for singlehood.
Maybe we’ll find out on his next tour.
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you plan on watching the show.
Last year, I wrote a post about the first season of Kevin Can F**k Himself, a show that peers into the dark side of the “nuclear family” sitcom trope, revealing the husband to be less of a buffoon and more of a self-centered narcissist and the wife, traditionally a foil, as a fully realized human being. The second set mines that to be even more extreme depths. And after watching the second season, particularly the series finale, there are layers of pro-single messages, which I’ll examine through the lenses of the four major characters. At its core, this is a show about people taking a back seat in their own lives and learning how to “show up” for themselves.
Kevin’s put-upon wife, in a traditional sitcom, would either shrug and roll her eyes at his antics or be the “voice of reason.” Here, Alison is looking to get away from Kevin, and while she seems like a milquetoast, she is self-aware enough to realize that she’s miserable always having to give everything of herself to Kevin. We learn that she was a talented runner and once had dreams of getting out of the blue-collar haven of Worcester, Massachusetts before meeting her husband. After a failed attempt at murder and a successful one at faking her own death, she realizes running doesn’t solve anything. After six months under the assumed identity of Gertrude Franch (and a successful stint at working in a Maine boutique), she comes back to tell Kevin she wants a divorce (to thunderous applause from the laugh track). The resolution of the film then gets several degrees track, as we finally see Kevin outside of the sitcom world, and he is an ugly sight.
Patty is Alison’s sorta friend-by-proximity. She’s the sister of Neil, Kevin’s best friend. She sits in the shadow of Neil, who is just a sidekick to Kevin. She comes alive when she learns of Alison’s plans to separate herself from Kevin, and, while she claims to hate Alison, she still assists her. During the first season, she begins dating Tammy, a police detective who’s on the cusp of finding out about Alison and Patty’s plan. Tammy is the dominant partner in her relationship with Patty, constantly trying to shoo away Alison from her. When Alison “disappears,” she’s on Patty to move away with her. In the series finale, Patty decides she’s staying Worcester, and she kicks out her freeloading brother, Neil, who’s been like a Kevin to Patty.
While Neil is not likable by any means, we’re able to empathize with him in the second season, when he becomes a part of Alison’s “dark world.” He stays loyal to Kevin, his lifelong best friend, despite being the frequent target of his bullying. When he learns of Alison and Patty’s plan to kill Kevin, they give him a concussion and are intent on disposing of him as well. He tries to inform Kevin, but he laughs in his face. This is a turning point, where Neil starts to realize Kevin isn’t much of a friend. He starts sleeping with a married family friend, Diane, and when Kevin mocks him for it, this is where he tells Kevin to go f**k himself. When Patty throws him out of the house, he invites Diane to run away with him out of desperation for a place to live. Diane has feelings for him but knows it wouldn’t be the right move. In Neil’s last appearance, he huffs off from Patty and carries a duffel bag with him. This suggests that Neil has potential to learn to stand on his own.
Onscreen, Kevin plays the role of the traditional sitcom buffoon. Offscreen, he’s committed arson, vandalism, and he’s even gotten people divorced and fired from their jobs due to pure malice. He meets his new girlfriend, Molly, at Alison’s funeral, and they’re dating immediately afterwards. At one point, he confuses the two (“Sorry, I was thinking of my past partner” is a line of his, when he’s berating Molly for forgetting something). By the time Alison divorces him, Neil’s walked out on him, Molly’s realized she’s made a mistake, and his own father’s written him off (repeatedly making fun of Dad’s girlfriend’s laugh really isn’t cool). Having grown a full beard and drank an entire fifth of whiskey, he calls his “support” to get “revenge” on Alison, but nobody responds. Finally, he’s burned down the entire house.
I’m sad this show only lasted two seasons; there are heavy themes of codependency and self-suffiicency, and the pro-single message is clear. The last line of the series, as said by Alison to Patty in a salute to platonic friendship: “Let’s die alone together.”
My name is Craig. I'm an educator, writer, and unapologetic singleton. When not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy hiking, running, watching movies, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and playing with my cat/son, Chester.