Mark Kendall in ‘The Magic Negro’
at the Alliance Theatre
“The Magic Negro and other Blackity Blackness as told by an African-American Man who also happens to be Black” is billed as a hilarious one-man show performed and written by Mark Kendall. Although nearly the entire audience was howling with laughter, I was wondering what they all found to be so funny.
After the show, my middle-aged white girlfriend from my high school graduating class who was with me said her cheeks hurt from smiling so much. She and a black woman next to her tried explaining what they found funny to me by telling me the point of the show: to think about racism. I understood that. What I didn’t understand was what was so damn funny. The black woman asked if I was familiar with Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock. Yes, I said, and I find them to be funny.
I laughed some in this show. When Kendall reads aloud to an imaginary group of young children the book “Sam I Am,” a parody of Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” I laughed and thought the humor was smart when he finally got the scene going. The first minute of two, he just creates the scene and the Seuss characters as he reads from the book’s pages while the pictures and words are shown on a large screen behind him. He juxtaposes the actual words from Seuss with his own words. When he finally gets to the part about a word that should not be uttered, I am laughing. This skit about a word that Sam refuses to say and then finally enjoys saying is very funny, especially since Kendall creates his characters so well.
I also laughed at the stereotypes of things that three different types of black men will say: one who is not black enough, one who is too black and one who is in the middle and calls himself African-American. Just when it makes sense for one of those types to say something about Martin Luther King, Kendall flips the direction so that his words fill us with laughter. Kendall is especially good at surprising the audience with the unexpected line.
Kendall is an ensemble member and teacher at Dad’s Garage Theatre, a local improv troupe. He was named best professional funnyman by Creative Loafing Atlanta in 2015.
“The Magic Negro and other Blackity Blackness as told by an African-American Man who also happens to be Black” runs through April 15 on the Hertz Stage at the Alliance Theatre.