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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

C'mon, America... wake the #%$& up!

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As its title suggests, U.S. comedian D.L. Hughley's first book, written with Michael Malice, is a plea for Americans to take their eyes off their computer screens and take a hard and humorous look at the downward direction their country is headed in.

"It used to be that people would grieve when one of their loved ones passed... now people's immediate reaction is to tweet or update their status," Hughley writes. "The American dream is in dire need of a wakeup call. The only national consensus that exists is that we are f-cked."

There aren't many pages that don't contain Hughley's favourite F-word at least once, by the way.

Hughley is known from Spike Lee's standup comedy performance film, The Original Kings of Comedy -- in which he joked onstage alongside Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer and the late Bernie Mac -- as well as his own CNN talk show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, and the sitcom The Hughleys, which ran on ABC from 1998 to 2000 and UPN from 2000 to 2002.

He is also a regular guest on TV's The Tonight Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. Like Maher's show, Hughley's collection of essays mixes social and political commentary with laughs, but without that show's opposing points of view it becomes a bit tiresome here.

Some of his rants, particularly on gun culture, go on a little long (he was also criticized for using the recent Colorado movie theatre shooting to tweet about his views on firearms).

Hughley grew up around guns, owning his first at 15 and seeing a friend die after being shot by someone in a gang when he was in Grade 7. He wants some gun control in the U.S., but certainly isn't anti-gun, as he equates the weapons with protection -- especially after growing up in the Los Angeles gang culture.

"Americans are really talking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to guns," he writes. "You can buy guns at Walmart, but you can't buy a rap album that mentions guns in the lyrics."

The book is a hit-and-miss affair, but there are some highlights, including a humorous rundown of the candidates in the recent Republican party elections, an explanation of how Bill Clinton is easier for black Americans to relate to than Barack Obama, and showbiz stories from his early comedy days.

For example, he gives great insight into being a warmup comedian for television audiences from his time working on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where he had to get crowds in the mood to laugh, but not be funnier than the show's stars.

He also gets very personal in talking about his family, including his two adult daughters and his son, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at a young age. This includes some tough-talking parental advice, but there's a definite sensitive side to the comedian seen here as well.

But then he turns around and defends Tiger Woods' womanizing.

"Tiger Woods is a billionaire. If you're a billionaire, you should be able to have all the sex you want," he writes. "His name is Tiger. It's not Horse or Duck."

Hughley has some great one-liners and makes some good points ("we can't get past racism if we can't laugh about it"). He's also very opinionated and brash. Longtime fans have come to expect this, but newcomers may be a bit put off at times.


Alan MacKenzie is a Winnipeg-based writer and editor.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2012 J9

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