The biggest names of comedy returned to the stage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan’s Def Comedy Jam. This Netflix special, which taped on September 10, premiered on September 26.
Comedians who attribute their success to the former late-night show were all in attendance— Steve Harvey, Tracy Morgan, Dave Chappelle, D.L. Hughley, Sheryl Underwood, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps, Deon Cole, J.B. Smoove, and Tiffany Haddish, of “Girls Trip” fame.
HBO, or anybody in the world for that matter, had never seen such raunchy, vulgar comedy. July 1992 was a pivotal time for Black comedians because most weren’t able to break into mainstream like Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy.
I vividly remember those late nights of sneaking into our family’s living room with my sister. We wanted to know what all the hype was about. In the 1990s, HBO was a luxury. HBO in your cable package was like your mom packing a bag of chips and a Little Debbie snack in your school lunch. So, you can imagine my adolescent admiration when I could kick back on the couch in the middle of the night and laugh like I was in the studio audience.
One of the best comeback stories of all time is Dave Chappelle. After losing his show, “Chappelle’s Show” with Comedy Central, I think many people wrote him off. But today, he looks renewed and full of life.
Chappelle and Hughley had an off-the-script comedy roast and it was the highlight of the evening. I wish the anniversary special wasn’t scripted though, because those extra 20 minutes of improv comedy was priceless. If Netflix really wanted to commemorate two and a half decades of pure laughter, then they should have recreated a real live Def Comedy Jam show. Martin Lawrence could have served as the host, and let each comic do a 2-3 minute stand-up.