DeRay Davis: How To Act Black doesn’t push you into thinking Davis is overdue for a special but is still enjoyable nonetheless.
With over 30 movies under his belt, even if he was only in them for 3 minutes (his joke, not mine), DeRay Davis isn’t new to the game. He has toured extensively and has been a professional actor for about 15 years now. Yet, he just has one of those, “I’ve seen you from somewhere” kind of looks. Which is something he seemingly wants to change with his comedy special.
One which brings you this vibe of a hood boy in a sloppy suit. Meaning, yeah you can tell he worked to bring you something presentable, but the finer details weren’t worked out. Which doesn’t mean this special is a mess. With him noting there is still this desire, no matter how good he is doing, to steal things, maybe rob an old lady, maybe take a car, he hooks you quick. Then that is followed by him speaking fondly of growing up in Chicago playing with hand guns before you get a real handgun, and things of that nature.
And of course he tries to dip his toes into modern issues, which seems very much out of his element, but he gets points for trying. For while it does seem he is trying to see if he could do commentary like Chappelle or Chris Rock, again, there is a DeRay spin on it. One which makes you think he didn’t run his ideas by enough people but this is his special and, like he said on The Breakfast Club, the hope was to make this a special and not a regular – like we saw from Alexis De Anda.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- What Black comedian nowadays don’t have a Kevin Hart story?
A Hood Negro Point of View
Compared to most Black comics, DeRay Davis doesn’t necessarily come off that polished. His stand up doesn’t imply he has been working these jokes for weeks and made sure they would have universal appeal. DeRay’s comedy is made for a Black audience, dealing with Black culture, and primarily the sub-culture dealing with those who know of or live in the ghetto.
Which I enjoy because we need some diversity. Chappelle and Rock have their political, on the nose, type of comedy. Kevin Hart has his Big Little Man persona, screaming, making funny gestures, and acting a fool shtick. Then with Tiffany Haddish, she is the last Black unicorn and is a very eccentric and weird young woman. As for Davis? He presents himself as some Chicago negro that made it. Yet, unlike the men mentioned, he doesn’t seem like he has crossed over to the point him talking about still wanting to rob people sounds out of place. Like a rapper who has been in the game 20-30 years still talking about slinging crack.
Instead, DeRay presents himself as that funny dude in the barbershop. The one who says somethings which are so dumb that while they could maybe get taken offensively, they’re too funny to think he meant any harm. Which isn’t to say when he does social commentary the laughs keep rolling. He needs to work on that, but as he talks about his time on Empire, doing a show in Africa, and life as a kid in Chicago, there he shines. For those topics, alongside the obligatory, “Black women are crazy” are where he has an almost unlimited pool of jokes that, strangely, he doesn’t beat to death. Even though he tries to make this joke dealing with his gay cousin Carl a thing.
On The Fence
His Social Commentary
There is a segment in which he talks about being aware of your surroundings and brings up the mass shootings that have happened over the past few years. In these moments, he sort of simplifies the situation in a, “Well if I was there” kind of way. He brings up the Charleston shooting and asks why they saw this weird little white boy and red flags weren’t raised. He talks about the Orlando Nightclub shooter and talks makes a joke about how he was gay and probably good dick drove him crazy.
All of which, because DeRay just didn’t find the kind of humor to really compensate for the seriousness of the topic, made that whole bit fall flat. Points for him trying, but it did seem like he should have worked those jokes more before having them recorded. Not because they are so controversial they could ruin his career, but I can see if this special gained traction, that becoming an issue he’ll have to continuously apologize for.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
While you can tell why DeRay may not have become as big as Kevin Hart, who he was roommates with, and others, there is enough here to see why he has been working consistently. His jokes dealing with being an actor auditioning, working on Empire, and his ghetto past are funny. Are they knee-slapping funny? No. If there were a new Kings of Comedy tour, How to Act Black won’t push you to think DeRay Davis needs to be in the lineup. For while he has some jokes, once his commentary strays from impressions and speaking from a hood negro point of view, he raises some eyebrows. Like his argument of how people need to be more aware and how that relates to the recent major shootings across the United States.
Which is why this is being labeled mixed. DeRay Davis: How To Act Black, just doesn’t really pack a punch. It’s funny, you have to admit that, but it very much feels like a first special. One in which, despite how long DeRay Davis has been out there, like he is still kind of finding his voice and what is his lane. And while it isn’t painful to watch him explore, there is this constant need to remind yourself this is one of the first times he is the star and is dealing with the pressure of the show riding on him.