Review: Comedian Chris Tucker on why 'Puff Daddy should change his name to Ike Turner'

While full of celebrity anecdotes, the Rush Hour star's Abu Dhabi show felt undercooked

Chris Tucker performed as part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week. Getty Images
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“I am over 50 years old and working, I really need to invest,” quipped Chris Tucker during his Saturday show at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena.

Resplendent in a gilded jacket and shades, Tucker looked like the superstar who was one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. However, judging by the underwhelming set that was part of Abu Dhabi Comedy Week, the comedian and Rush Hour star perhaps needs to place that extra effort in crafting a more penetrating routine befitting his star power.

The fact his once-lucrative status reportedly landed him in the sights of the US tax authorities shouldn’t have only pushed him back for a rare stand-up comedy world tour, as he alluded to during the show, but it could have also set the stage for an insightful autobiographical set about his celebrated career, which placed him on the nexus between the music and film industries.

The fact is almost nobody in Hollywood has the contact book Tucker has. A friend of Michael Jackson, he appeared in the pop star's 2001 ground-breaking video You Rock My World, as well hanging out with his rival Prince. In Hollywood, he shared the big screen with Jackie Chan in the aforementioned Rush Hour series and Bruce Willis in the underrated sci-fi romp The Fifth Element, as well as stealing the show in the influential African-American comedy Friday.

He also hung out with former South African president Nelson Mandela, basketball great Michael Jordan, boxer Mike Tyson and Bee Gees singer Barry Gibb.

Tucker is aware of his distinctive place in pop culture and, while providing some interesting takes of life under the spotlight, his Abu Dhabi set often rested on superficial musings and aimless anecdotes of times spent with his famous friends.

The latter proved more frustrating as there is a gold mine of material he could have dug into.

His 2005 trip to Dubai with Jackson, where they played in the artificial snow at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates, as well as his time spent with Jackson in Bahrain for “a few months”, were quickly glossed over.

As for the experience of getting a rigorous haircut in a gritty neighbourhood in Beirut in 2002, he stated: “I am just glad I didn’t die.”

The set took on more resonance when Tucker listed the instances of African-American celebrities “getting in trouble”, from the abuse claims against Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and Will Smith’s slap at the Oscar ceremony, to RnB singer R Kelly's imprisonment in 2022.

Not only is it a bad look for Hollywood's rich African-American creative community, Tucker noted, but it partly speaks of the moral vacuum inherent in the entertainment industry. “Puffy should change his name to Ike Turner,” he said, to a slight groan from the crowd. “Listen, I don't agree with that and don't be putting your hands on no woman. I don't agree with this and this is why I got saved.”

This could have led to a potentially illuminating section about Tucker re-embracing his Christian faith and the resulting decisions to spurn lucrative offers to return as the character Smokey in further instalments of Friday.

Instead, we had to settle for subtle hints pointing to that direction and more rehashed star-studded anecdotes.

Those who saw Tucker’s debut UAE show in Abu Dhabi’s defunct Du Forum would have recalled similar bits about his realisation of Rush Hour co-star Jackie Chan’s status in China or Jackson’s “Christmas” nickname for Tucker.

The tired material was partly rescued by Tucker’s indefatigable energy that made him a scene-stealer in Hollywood.

Judging by what he is offering on stage, perhaps a return to the big screen is where Tucker’s gifts are best appreciated.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 1:00 PM