One of the first things that’s striking about “Chris Rock: Tamborine,” the latest special from the legendary comedian, is the audience. Filmed in Brooklyn, the venue for this hour of introspection, observation, and occasional absurdity has a smaller-sized crowd that feels more in line with its Netflix streaming home. Gone is the to-the-rafters approach of arena-sized performances like Rock’s various Apollo sets. This is a grand re-entry with a smaller focus, but still anchored by all the skill that’s made him essential.
Like Dave Chappelle, another icon who made a Netflix return after a decade away, there’s a good amount of material in “Tamborine” about dealing with fame and a changing relationship to what comes with a high-profile life. Rock’s attitude here is less to revel in the luxuries of his life and more to acknowledge the things that more opportunities put someone in danger of ignoring.
Rock’s chosen topics of conversation for “Tamborine” aren’t that far afield from those in many other specials, whether headlined by breakouts or established favorites. The American justice system, divorce, school bullying, and religion have all been broached before, even in titles available right next to Rock’s on Netflix’s standup category menu.
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But there are few comics with as much instantaneous presence and command of an audience than Rock. Even in the way he’s able to take a word or phrase, repeat it with varying levels of enthusiasm, all giving way to a wry smile, it’s the same Rock touch that’s blasted the roof off of thousand-seat theaters from coast to coast (and even across continents in “Kill the Messenger”). With the back row a little closer this time around, his physical work (accentuating a bit about driving through a neighborhood to get to a Jamaican resort, for instance) is more refined than ever.
And that doesn’t change when Rock goes to his more introspective material. As he relives his past infidelities and the recent dissolution of his marriage, you can tell that it is not an insignificant thing to him. But he knows that he’s there to be a comedian, not to air out a decade-brewing personal therapy session. For every joke …read more