Chris Rock uses rhetoric in his standup Never Scared to persuade his audience to adopt his views, while at the same time reversing the pity warranting image that Mintz’s claims gives a comic his license to speak freely. Both of these personal intentions of Rock’s in his stand up are dependent solely on how well he connects to the core values of his audience. Since Rock is credited for being best able at connecting to the family and relationship values of Blacks, this essay will identify those values and the method Rock goes about affirming his allegiance to them.
1. In his essay, Standup Comedy as Social and Cultural Mediation, Lawrence E. Mintz explains the justification behind the stand up comedian’s license to speak freely.
The oldest, most basic role of the comedian is precisely this role of negative exemplar. The grotesque, the buffoon, the fool, the simpleton, the scoundrel, the drunkard, the liar, the coward, the effete, the tightwad, the boor, the egoist, the cuckold, the shrew, the weakling, the neurotic, and other such reifications of socially unacceptable traits are enacted by the comedian to be ridiculed, laughed at, repudiated, and finally, symbolically punished. (Mintz, 1985)
This statement can directly be applied to Rock as an entertainer. He is skinny, short, barely high school educated, and most inappropriate of all he is African American. On top of this, Rock has developed a comedic career on the basis of being one of the bad boys of comedy. He is brash, crude and brutally honest with all of his jokes;
2. It is Mary Douglas’s belief that jokes tend to be structured in a way that misrepresents, reorders and distorts familiar forms of expression and perspectives, which draws humor, but innately reveals deeper implied meaning (Mintz, 1985). She also agrees with Victor Turner who believes that the experience of public joking, shared laughter, and celebration of agreement on what deserves ridicule and affirmation fosters community and furthers a sense of mutual support for common belief and behavior (Mintz, 1985). This corresponds with Rock because it acknowledges the rhetorical nature of implied meaning through distortion, as well as the fact that a community can be formed through the power of using this distortion to create laughter.
3. This community Rock creates must be structured on some form of values with which he knows everyone can basically agree, and that will create an atmosphere of familial comfort. In the opening of Never Scared, the very first thing Rock talks about is his relationship he has with his daughter.
It’s amazing when you have a girl… It’s eye opening, because I realize, I’m the man in her life. My relationship with my daughter is going to effect her relationship with men for the rest of her life. Every man in here has dated a woman with some daddy issues. That [email protected]%$# ain’t fun ok. She’s giving you a hard time for some [email protected]%$# her daddy did in 1969. (Chris Rock, 2004)
3. Finally, he explains why it’s not a man’s place in deciding whether or not a child is aborted. Here Rock’s perspective on male female relations is similar to Nilsen’s ideal of sophistication.
The most obvious kind of gender-related humor is that used by one gender to put down the other. A second type of gender-related humor is a step removed and is more sophisticated in that it is humor about conflicts between the sexes. (Nilsen, 2000)
His argument is that women decide on their own regardless, and that making it illegal will just result in people breaking the law. Rock does express some points of misogyny when he says that men should not argue with women because men feel obligated to use reason in and argument and women do not. This is an example of Nilsen’s degradation of women in that he devalues all their perspectives in an argument (2000).
4. Pierre Bourdieu asserts that public opinion does not exist. This poses the question, how should we conceive public opinion? If it is true that the public does not exist, than the real question is, whose opinion is public opinion?
This can be seen used by Rock in the fact that he creates the sense of a public perception. Through laughter, it appears as though everyone in the room agrees with the values Rock is promoting. The people in this small room is often transferred through the screen as being representative of the public opinion of Black America, but like the west coast example proved, this image is a very false one.