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THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY

The Production

"The Kings of Comedy" concert film was filmed in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"We started the tour in Charlotte and if the response here wasn't right in 1997, then the tour wouldn't have been. I thought it only fitting to bring the film back here," explains Latham.

"The Kings of Comedy" tour is clearly an event for everyone involved, the performers and the audience. As the host and anchor between each performance, Harvey sets the tone for the evening. "Right off the top, I let the audience know what's expected of them. It's more than us telling jokes. Without a great audience, you ye got nothing. It's a two way street," comments Harvey. "I see the audience settling into their seats. I see the expecta tions on their faces, they expect something from us too."

What audiences have come to expect is a chance to recognize themselves in the performers on the stage. According to Harvey, "They relate to us because we are them. So few of us make it through the cracks to become successful. Our jokes are not over their heads. Our jokes are not about how much money we have now. Our jokes are about our struggles to get to where we are, and even some of the pain that we still feel being where we are. They can still relate to us. There's an element of pride in the audience when they watch us. They feel a part of our success because they helped us to get there. There's a serious exchange of love that happens," explains Harvey.

The tour has attracted a dedicated audience, that is black, white, blue collar and corporate. There is a cadre of followers that travel the country to catch each stop on the tour. Their dedication is an emotional and financial investment: hair appointments are made, nails are manicured and new outfits get that final touch before they attend the show. The Kings play their part too. "They pay a lot of money to see us. We have to dress and look the part," laughs Harvey.

Lee set up two booths in the Coliseum to take video portraits of the audience in their finery. "I grew up in New York and the audience reminds me of the way we came out to see the first Ali Frazier fight. Black people look their best when they go out, to church, or out on a Saturday night. That's the way we are and that's the way it's been for the last two years on 'The Kings of Comedy' tour."

While the crowd is predominantly black, Hughley states, "you don't have to be black to laugh." All of the comedians see their routines as accessible to all.

"Funny is funny is funny" declares Mac. "Funny comes from pain, and sorrow, and everyone has experienced those feelings. Being able to laugh together is something special." When Harvey sees blacks and whites sitting beside each other and laughing together in the audience, he knows that he 'has nailed it."'

There are no sacred cows on "The Kings of Comedy" tour. Everything is up for laughs: funer als, church services, sports personalities, violence in the workplace, country people versus city peo ple, bill collectors, black life versus white life. As a part of his act, Mac tells a shockingly honest and emotionally revealing story about adopting the children of his drug addicted sister. Cedric gets laughs for his thoughts about the chances of a black president, 'Clinton is the closest that we're gonna get.'"

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