Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell 'Em I Said It Review

I'm on the fence about Eddie Griffin's latest stand-up special, You Can Tell 'Em I Said It. On one hand, the man is genuinely funny, a firebrand vulgarian whose trained, exaggerated body language only adds to the shock-value comedy that is his calling. There's no denying that Mr. Griffin's comedy occasionally leans on the now-ancient trope of "white people ____ like this, black people ____ like that", but I can hardly blame a comedian for playing the race card. There's an honesty to Griffin's delivery, a genuine intellectual appeal mixed with a overtly potty mouth that dispenses an extensive vocabulary of adult-only words.

This alone would somersault him above a middling career that in the last decade included flops Redline and Irish Jam (a film that, unsurprisingly, received its worst reviews in Ireland). In my opinion, Griffin peaked as an actor in John Q, and Undercover Brother was certainly a guilty pleasure. For Eddie Griffin the comedian though, this feels like an attempt to jump right back into the mainstream, the thick of things - some of the material of You Can Tell 'Em I Said It is heavily informed by recent headlines. Luckily, most of the dirty gems in this 80-minute special are Griffin's musing on a variety of universal topics -religion, history, and especially issues he takes with certain habits in the African-American community.

If there is one major issue I have with You Can Tell 'Em I Said It, it's so deeply intertwined with Griffin's delivery that to judge it would mean to judge the entire show by it. The issue is Griffin's frequently polarizing statements that added into the mix. One that stuck in my head especially was what felt almost like a throw-away punchline as to what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there? To control the opium trade of course.

Let that statement sink in. Griffin claims to have studied a variety of subjects and aims to impress by furnishing his delivery with a few basic words of Chinese, Japanese, French etc.. Now don't get this the wrong way, I'm not taking the man to task for not performing the entire show in a half-dozen languages. It just feels half-formed, and so a number of other potentially thought-provoking, even violatile ideas. Griffin knows his audience and must have certainly worked hard on the routine, which is admirably boisterous and profane, and funny - so there's no faulting the man there.

It's just that a spoonful of moralistic pondering with every bucketful of sex, race and the occasionally surprisingly cruel homophobic jokes doesn't quite meld. Griffin can do the walk and he is a born motor mouth but its the content, not the character, that makes you think. We've all seen a Charlie Chaplin skit at some point in our lifetimes - the man was a genius choreographer but also a thinker and his monologue bookending The Great Dictator is a unique moment of a comedian extending his truest intentions to the audience.

Griffin is not Chaplin. But before you say something along the lines of "hey man u don't get it! he's funny!", understand this: I do get it. The man is funny and hard worker to boot. But if he expects that these statements will stick without raising serious questions about his intent. If Griffin is aiming to drop some knowledge on an audience that came to see a man curse his head off and show a picture of a photoshopped Obama in gangsta clothes. Maybe this is his style in general and since I haven't seen any other Griffin stand-up, I'm digging into it way deep. But the facts remain - what I took away from this funny man made me think and left me uneasy.

Video and audio are solid and servicable.

DVD Bonus Features

The DVD offers a single extra in the form of a "Backstage Pass", which clocks in around 30 minutes of literal behind the scenes footage of Griffin running rehearsal, chatting with crew and basically prepping his routine for the show. Scenes of rehearsal are intercut with the final product and its pretty nifty but overly long and often very dull. It is also hurt by very poor sound in parts - someone will say something to the comic on stage and you'll barely catch it.

"Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell 'Em I Said It" is on sale February 22, 2011 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Jay Karas. Starring Eddie Griffin.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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