REVIEW: Chris Rock at the Chicago Theatre with 'Total Blackout Tour 2017.' The confessions, stories and disconnect outweigh the laughs.
by David Compa
“That was a great show," one audience member said hopefully to another as they walked out of the Chicago Theatre on Thursday after the first of a sold out, four-night run of legendary comedian ’s “Total Blackout Tour.” The reply, when it came a few long seconds later, was more confident and more accurate: "It was all right." Though Rock — writing, producing, acting and hosting work aside, has surely earned himself a spot in the pantheon of greatest stand-up comics several times over — has been working some of this material for a while, he's got quite a bit more work ahead to tie this stuff together and make sure that it fully connects. As it stands, his set is a long, rocky slog, with the occasional peaks not providing enough laughs to offset the troughs. Don't blame the openers. In a fitted suit, Ardie Fuqua — who earned himself an audible gasp at the end of his set by reminding the audience that he was the other comedian in that limousine wreck with Tracy Morgan in 2014 — warmed up a relatively quiet crowd with winning material on topics such as the differences between men and women, and which races handle jokes about racism the best. Following Fuqua, Chicago native Hannibal Buress — who has filled the Chicago Theatre on his own — took the stage clad all in black, delivering a relaxed set that covered topics from Chicago’s mayor (“People don’t like the mayor,” he said. “That’s partly because he’s bad at his job.”) to breaking down his “medium famous” status. “You saw when I walked out,” he explained. “There were some people that were really excited and some people that were like, ‘What’s going on here?’” After Buress left the stage a giant “CR” was projected on the back wall as Rock came onstage in black pants, a black shirt, a black jacket and white tennis shoes to a standing ovation. “What are you doing, Chicago?” he yell-asked in his familiarly strained voice as an opening line, responding to his own question with, “You’re trying not to get shot!” Despite the occasional swagger and the recognizable cadence that provided the undercurrent to many of his jokes, the once implacable force of his stage persona seemed a bit dimmer. “I haven’t done … stand-up in a