Picks and Pans Review: Race

updated 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mr. Paul Mooney

One's an edgy motormouth, leaning in, jabbing your chest. The other's deceptively merry, riffing, chortling, mimicking, having a fine old time making you sweat. Sneery Leary. Moon-faced Mooney. Boston Irish-Catholic. Los Angeles black (via Oakland). They both scarf up hard truths and spit them out as brutally precise musings on sex, drugs, race, politics. Not the stuff of easy yucks, but very funny.

Leary has been having his 15 minutes of fame and then some, thanks to his Nike spots ("I think you hear me knockin'...") and his MTV segments. His pugnacious style tempers blue-collar rage with the introspection of a guy who also writes poetry, making the 35-year-old a son of both the late high-decibel comic Sam Kinison and performance artist Eric Bogosian. Leary's a walking backlash, waxing nostalgic over the coke-and-'ludes '70s, reveling in steaks and cigs now. "I only eat red meat that comes from cows that smoke," he declares on Cancer (A&M), his live first disc. "Bring a live cow over to the table...I'll carve what I want and ride the rest home."

Leary, though just ascending, is a household name compared with Mooney—unless the households in question are those of other comedians. In the stand-up trade. Mooney is a legend. As head writer on the first season of In Living Color, Mooney created Homey the Clown. But that's recent history. He wrote for Eddie Murphy's Raw tour, and his collaborations with Richard Pryor go back 20 years to a number of albums, Saturday Night Live skits and The Richard Pryor Show.

Race (StepSun) is his first record, and it is brushed with genius. Simply put, race is what he talks about—bluntly, outrageously and with equal opportunity. For him the word "nigger" has no fangs ("I say 'nigger' a hundred times every morning. It makes my teeth white"). He zaps Michael Jackson for whittling away his "wide-ass nigger nose...I hear at 4 a.m. he can't breathe with that little tiny-ass nose."

Declares Mooney: "Thank God Paul Revere was white, 'cause we wouldn't be sitting here now. 'Cause if he had been black, somebody would have shot that nigger: 'Ahh, that nigger stole that horse!' " In "White People's Talents" Mooney lists skiing, bungee jumping, sky diving and hang gliding and marvels, "You cannot get a nigger drunk to jump off a porch. I'm very impressed. You mountain climb, you're like goats. You don't see niggers climbing mountains. We'll sing about it: 'Ain't no mountain high enough.' That's it." Later he observes, "White men can't jump. They don't have to. They own the team." When Mooney's fury finds its mark, he is hysterical, subversive, deserving the spotlight.

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