Nearly all comedians become less popular in time, but they seldom become less funny.
(I could name a couple of exceptions, but not here, not now.)
Eddie Griffin had his HBO specials, movies and even a reality show. Now it seems like he’s starting over again, building a Las Vegas residency from the modest base of a tightly packed, converted restaurant at the Rio known as the King’s Room.
But the 43-year-old Griffin, of “Malcolm & Eddie” and “Undercover Brother” fame, is still the same guy. A naughty lad determined to offend, but one who knows that is nearly impossible, thanks to the permanent sly smile, the sleepy eyes of a marijuana aficionado, and the contagious laugh he shares at his own outrageousness when he gets a roll of laughter started.
Much of his stand-up might now be labeled “retro Def Comedy Jam.” It still works the well-worn lines between black and white culture, and Griffin bombards the audience with “nigga” as a casual pronoun in nearly every joke. If your PC flinch reflex doesn’t fade with repetition, you surely don’t want to hear the gay jokes.
The packed room laughs like it was 1999. If one thing is timeless in comedy, it’s a small-penis bit. Hard-core sex talk makes the set live up to its billing as “Comedy Without a Condom.” But at least he builds up to it, perhaps sensing a 7 p.m. start for this three-day weekly residency is on the early side of a Vegas night out.
But you somehow adjust when – after two opening comedians who can change from week to week – Griffin strolls out with a Champagne flute and a pack of smokes he will tap a couple of times over the course of an hour.
Perennial riffs on race, sex and religion hold up even when they travel down familiar stand-up roads. The Baptist church puts on a show “for old people who don’t go out no more,” and “a preacher ain’t nothin’ but an out-of-work pimp. Both of ’em making money tax-free for having the gift of gab.”
The Muslims lost him with the no drinking or smoking rule, and “I’d be a Jehovah’s Witness, but they got a paper route.”
It would be pretty standard stuff if Griffin didn’t bookend it with topical material at the beginning and autobiography at the end.
Griffin managed to wring a couple of jokes out of the Trayvon Martin controversy, talking about how he would be much less restrained and more vigilante than Martin’s “respectful, smooth-temper-havin’ adult” parents.
He took pains to point out that President Obama is half white, but later on decides that he’s fully black because “he put a swing set on the White House lawn.”
He had provocative lines about Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain that you’ll never hear on “The Daily Show.” And, performing on the day that Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, he noted, “We found out today Obama is about to be re-elected,” because “white people don’t even like Mitt Romney.”
At the end, Griffin turned the spotlight to his own crazy life, explored in more depth in his “DysFunKtional Family” stand-up film. Here he gave us just a taste of it, mostly a reflection on how long he’s been in the comedy game and how, ever since one of his brothers kept him from getting too full of himself early on, “I’ve had 10 toes on the ground ever since.
“I’m doing a good job of bein’ me, a retarded (expletive),” he says.
Griffin looks to be tapping a neglected market niche here. Here’s hoping that if he digs in for the long run, he will have the luxury of digging a little deeper through the stock material, and deeper into himself as well.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Review
Eddie Griffin “Comedy Without a Condom”
7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday
Rio, 3700 W. Flamingo Road