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Why Chris Rock's 1991 Debut Standup Album Is as Relevant Today as Ever

chrisrock-bornsuspectChris Rock’s first standup album, Born Suspect, was recorded in 1991, but it seems like it could have been recorded last month. Sure, comics are always kind of mining the same big issues in the human condition and that’s why we get lots of “black people are like this, white people are like this” “women vs. men” jokes. But seriously, both in overall tone and specific cultural references, this album is like…you know…relevant and stuff.

Background: Born Suspect was recorded in Atlanta in 1991 and came out I think only on cassette, although the internet kind of makes all that irrelevant. It was recorded in a black comedy club in Atlanta, which I mention only because this was during Rock’s tenure at SNL, where he was doing characters like Nat X, who he referred to in a 2008 interview with Creative Screenwriting Magazine as “a watered down Eddie Murphy bit” and “cute.” This was his real shit. Standup in a comedy club with glasses clinking and a low ceiling and the kind of hoarse voice you get from doing shows every night before you’re a rich guy who drinks honey tea all the time and lives in Connecticut.

The first thing that makes you double check when this was recorded is just the topics he talks about. Minimum wage (“you know what they’re saying when they pay you minimum wage? They’re saying ‘I would pay you less, but it’s illegal.’”), the Washington Redskins’ racist name (“That’s like the New York Ni**ers or the Denver Dykes”), white kids’ entitlement (“Allowance? I was ‘allowed’ to go outside.”), and how the old men in the Supreme Court fuck over women (“I wouldn’t want a bunch of women voting on my balls or nothing.”) READ MORE

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37 Is Objectively the Funniest Number

simpsons-mathIn his classic book A Theory of Justice, philosopher John Rawls argues for liberalism as a political ideology with a thought experiment. The subject is in the “original position” where “…no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like.” In other words, you could be anyone in this hypothetical society. Now: what political ideology would be the best?

I would argue that when using this “veil of ignorance” to render obsolete all particulars about the joke or certain context — for example, sometimes it’s funnier to use a really high number, like “it’s like 95,000,000 degrees out here” or a low number like “literally only 2 people have ever eaten Taco Bell without shitting their pants in the parking lot” — 37 is the funniest number. READ MORE