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[whitespace] 'Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat'
Ever Wonder Why Comedians Are So Bitter? Martin Lawrence nurses his resentments in his new concert film.

Black Krusty

Martin Lawrence blames his woes on uncaring critics in concert film 'Runteldat'

By Richard von Busack

COMEDIAN Martin Lawrence seems to want to come clean. His new concert movie, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, begins with a montage of his work in recent pictures interspersed with news of his arrests and public collapses. Some of the reporters shown are actors billed as "Celebrity Journalists"; there's also a writer for the so-called New York News and Press, who denounces Lawrence for his misdeeds. The man's oppressed, even if he has to hire additional staff to oppress him.

In the first five minutes, he tells all the critics they can go fuck themselves. In addition to his personal troubles, Lawrence has also received withering reviews for such work as Black Knight, Big Momma's House and What's the Worst That Can Happen? It was actually because these movies were such dreadful pooches that I wanted to see what Lawrence was like in concert. He wouldn't be the first good comic to have a string of bad movies happen to him--what if you judged the work of Martin Short or John Candy by their films?

But most of Runteldat consists of the kind of standup comedy that makes you dread seeing a brick wall. What's with those Indians at McDonald's? Why do they have turbans on? Don't they know it makes them look like bin Laden? Menstrual blood is gross! Don't Mexicans talk funny? When he gets into more ruthless material, Lawrence doesn't have the delivery to make the jokes sting. One of his early riffs concerns that repulsive anti-smoking commercial that shows the woman with a tracheotomy stoma--it ends with a fantasy about the maimed woman's husband giving it to her in that new hole. To put it mildly, you need a deft touch with that kind of material.

When Lawrence kids about beating up newborns to teach them respect, he sounds more depressing than naughty. In the film The Original Kings of Comedy, the great comedian Bernie Mac states his child-rearing motto: "When a kid is a year old, you can hit him in the neck or in the stomach." Mac's willingness to be isolated by his very bad thoughts empties the threat. As in W.C. Fields' comments about cooking a child, there doesn't seem to be any danger of Mac carrying out the plan. When Lawrence describes his child-beating scheme, he plays to the crowd, getting them to cheer him on as he batters an imaginary kid. Maybe someone should make a quick phone call to Child Protective Services.

The last half-hour, during which Lawrence goes candid, is more worthwhile. He lists his public meltdowns: some too-strong marijuana made him threaten the police in traffic; jogging in the heat left him in a three-day coma. These injuries make him seem less like a bully. However, most of the film is just like its opener. It's a rant broken up with a few audience grabbers--tributes to the United States ("Greatest country in the world!"), Martin Luther King Jr. and motherhood. Lawrence has that Krusty the Klown-style funnyman formula down pat: bitter hostility plus sentiment.

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (R), a concert film with Martin Lawrence, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the August 8-14, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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