This Day in Film: “The Original Kings of Comedy”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 9:33 am.

(Photo: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks)

On this day in 2000, the Spike Lee directed The Original Kings of Comedy was released to theaters. Filmed in front of a live audience at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina over a two-night stand, the movie captured the routines of four of the biggest Black comics at the time: Steve Harvey, Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac. The Original Kings of Comedy consistently sold out 10,000 to 15,000 seat capacity arenas during its coast-to-coast run – making it one of the biggest comedy tours in history.

Each respective comedian covered topics related to black culture, race relations, religion and family during their sets. In between each comedian’s bit, footage of the funny men backstage and their lives on the road were intertwined. On the movie, The New York Times wrote, “What comes out of these comedians’ hearts hits the most powerful chord, and the audience wants more of it.”

Others highlighted the comedic genius of Bernie Mac, with the critic at Film Threat claiming: “It is Bernie Mac who is the true King of Comedy here, following in the footsteps of Pryor and Murphy before him as he crosses from church-raised testifying, to furious black cultural theorizing, to barely controlled comedic genius.”

The Original Kings of Comedy was produced with an estimated $3,000,000 budget, but went on to gross a total of $38,168,022 at the box offices. The stand-up film also spawned several sequels, in particular The Queens of Comedy featuring Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique.

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