Knock knock. Why did the chicken cross the road? A Rabbi, a Priest and a Reverend walk into…
All jokes aside though, we are a collection of atoms, but we are all one organism. An orgasmically cosmic spasm long ago led me to the revelation that we are connected more than we are separated, and we all love to laugh. What we find funny always depends on the individual, but laughter is universal. There are no accents in laughter, no preconceived notions, no hatred. Laughter makes us feel good, sometimes in the darkest of hours. Laughter is like music-when it hits, you feel no pain. So let the laughter hit, and be serious when need be. Just make sure to remain well-rounded and open-minded.
Sort of serendipitous in many ways that this quote makes it into this piece, but here goes when Bill Cosby sums it up best: “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive anything.” Anything. Thanks Bill. So let’s proceed…
2011’s Black Harvest Film Festival, held downtown at the Gene Siskel Film Center and in its 17th year, showcased many great films over the course of August. None made a splash as sizable as Raymond Lambert’s Phunny Business: A Black Comedy. A documentary based on comedy. Humor and seriousness. Brilliant.
The brilliance of now defunct South Loop comedy club All Jokes Aside is the main character and basis of director John Davies’ thesis. This legendary club helped launch the careers of then-checker-suited-high-top-sporting Steve Harvey, a fresh faced D.L Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac aka the Original Kings of Comedy. The film features footage and commentary from Aries Spears, Mike Epps, Melanie Comarcho, AJ Jamal, Carlos Mencia and Bill Bellamy to name a few, not to mention a scene-stealing bit from Adelle Givens, an unforgettable interface between Deon Cole and Honest John and a pseudo-argument over the naming of the club between two of the three owners, including subject of the film, Raymond Lambert who was available before and after the viewing for Q&A.
Sure, All Jokes was one of many launchpads for up and comers like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock who are now household names and mega-mega-stars, but the club offered more than what’s on paper in the history books. It laid the foundation before the comedy industry was transformed by sellout stadium performances and cable specials.
You see, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, civil war had passed, but remnants of its psychological damage spread throughout the country. Rebel minds struck, and they struck hard. Hard enough to win for crying out loud. Rebels had the Death Star in their grasp. It seemed the planet would not be doomed after all, that Planet Earth was somehow still salvageable, that the world would continue to laugh and laugh and laugh. It’s time to restore freedom to the galaxy, so that begs the question:
Do festivals such as this allow an opportunity to integrate debate? Or do they further segregate?
Films like Phunny Business and festivals like Black Harvest offer a glimpse into the opportunities we possess in our decisions and our actions on a daily basis. Lose the labels already.