I'll be honest. I have a bad attitude about this album.
From the moment I heard Nick Cannon was releasing a comedy album, I had a bad attitude.
The feeling I had was reminiscent of how I felt when Michael Jordan decided he was going to play professional baseball for the White Sox. He worked all of his life to become the best at basketball, and it showed. It's what he devoted his life to and we all know the tales of how he put in countless hours growing up while the rest of his friends and classmates were off doing whatever his other friends were doing. Basketball was his life's passion; he lived and breathed the sport. What he brought to the court was like nothing anyone had seen before and it's not an understatement to say he changed the game. He revolutionized how people play and became a huge signpost in the historic timeline of athletics.
But when he announced he was going to transition to Major League Baseball - and we all saw how mediocre he was compared to the others who had dedicated their life to this sport - it felt like a bit of a cheat. We all learned that just because he is a phenom at this thing over here doesn't necessarily mean everything he touches will turn to gold. As it turned out, Michael Jordan was human after all. It's always been my belief that if he had gone through the baseball machine like everyone else who put in their hours on the diamond, he never would have gotten the chance to play for the big leagues; he never would have made the cut. But because he was Michael Jordan, he got in, and I couldn't help thinking about - and feeling sorry for - the guy who lost his spot on the bench because he wasn't famous like Michael Jordan.
Which is why I sort of have a bad attitude about Mr. Showbiz, the new release from Nick Cannon. Although he dabbled in stand-up when he was much younger, all of his time and effort went into music and acting. And now that he's achieved some notoriety (and yes, I understand that comparing him to Michael Jordan in this analogy is being very generous) he's decided he wants to do comedy. Again, I call foul. Maybe I'm being a bit of a comedy snob, but I can't help feeling there's a sincere lack of dues-paying going on here. No one-offs in Boise. He never spent years "middling," wondering if he's ever gonna get bumped up to headliner. No poorly-promoted, lightly-attended comedy shows or bookings at a fair at 2 in the afternoon. Not for Nick Cannon, who gets to cut in front of everyone else and move straight to the head of the class. Sorry, Other Comedians Who Put In Your Time. Mr. Mariah Carey is here.
And that's where I was and why I went into this album with a less-then-objective mindset. In that regard, I'm coming clean. I didn't want to have this pre-conceived opinion before I gave it a listen, but I was bound and determined it wouldn't stop me from having a good time. It was a little hard to do, seeing as how the first track is really just a pre-produced pre-show package that is nothing more than Cannon trying to justify this project, explaining that from a young age, he knew comedy is what he wanted to do with his life (Really? Because the following 15 years of your career kinda suggests otherwise). He includes clips of himself performing comedy as a teenager as if that proves he is a comedian. Oddly enough, it was during this intro that garnered the biggest laugh of the entire album from me. There's a line Cannon says in all sincerity that made me guffaw. He brags about the material we're about to see that he's been "cultivatin' for the last year" as if that's supposed to be impressive. Wow. You worked on it for a whole year? I don't mean to step on any toes, but I think it's safe to say that most comics who are good at what they do and have a solid 45-minute set have been working on it for at least that long. But because he's Nick Cannon, this is instant comedy street cred via narration rather than actually putting in the work.
He also talks about the fact that he's always wanted to do a comedy special and now he can check it off his list, which is near-infuriating to me. It grinds my gears when people regard comedy as something so easy to do they can do it just because it's on their Celebrity Bucket List. As far as I'm concerned, a comedian does what he does because he has to do it. There's nothing else they'd rather do, no matter how hard a life it can be at times. It's in their blood and making people laugh is part of what they are. To me, Nick Cannon doing comedy is like Larry King doing comedy. It's just...you know...something to do on the weekend. Looks like fun, what the heck, then I'll go back to what I really wanna do. Part of me wonders if they even realize what a slap in the face it is to the comedians of the world who bust their asses week in and week out.
All of that to say, my review of this album could be summed up in one word:
To be honest, Mr. Showbiz turns out to be the perfect title for this project. Cannon isn't a comedian so much as he is an entertainer. He's a great speaker with a magnetic stage presence. He knows how to get a crowd riled up and has all of the comedy buzz words down. He's obviously studied the best; name any popular black comic and you'll see flashes of their influence throughout the album. But despite all of these great qualities, it seems empty and hollow. The material itself is nothing groundbreaking and Cannon doesn't really do anything to set himself apart as an original comedic voice. You almost get the feeling that he's playing the role of a comedian rather than being one. It's obvious he's been through the Hollywood machine where they often focus on formula versus freshness. A + B + C (where C = the N word) = Comedy.
Nick Cannon definitely has a future ahead of him and no matter how this album performs, he's going to be fine. And maybe that's just it. There's nothing riding on this; no sense of danger. He doesn't have to kill and can afford to be OK with being safe. Comedy is often compared to a highwire act but with Cannon there's no real risk. He's not only working with a net, but there's also a series of large inflatable balloons beneath the net. And he's also wearing a safety harness with wires to keep him from falling.
I'm sure Cannon dreams of being compared to Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Richard Pryor, but what he delivered here is Michael Jordan.
White Sox Michael Jordan.