For his third Netflix comedy special, actor Mike Epps went back home to his native Indianapolis, where he received a proclamation from the mayor and his local Congressman during the end credits. What kind of honors would you bestow upon Epps for this hour, though? Your answer may depend upon how much you live, love and breathe Indy.
The third time, the charmer opted for a full-on homecoming, not only filming his new hour in his hometown this past November, but also getting the mayor of Indianapolis and his local Congressman into the act, plus shout-outs in the audience for basketball players for the Indiana Pacers as well as even his criminal defense lawyer from 30 years ago.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: It’s reminiscent of Gary Owen filming his 2021 Showtime special Black Famous in his hometown of Cincinnati, what with the bulk of the stories revolving around local references and how the comedian is perceived by the locals.
Memorable Jokes: After a series of early jokes about the COVID-19 vaccine (he only got jabbed to keep from losing his Netflix money; he believes more Black Americans would get vaccinated if the shots came in flavors), Epps leans hard in the paint about his upbringing and status as a native of Naptown, the homegrown nickname for Indianapolis.
Do you know Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman Andre Carson? You’ll get to see them in the audience, and onstage during the end credits lauding Epps.
Epps also stops to point out some of the Pacers in the audience, and gets his former defense lawyer from 1992 to stand up and receive some applause. He name-drops “Sammy Terry,” the local TV horror-movie host, music manager Amp Harris. boxer “Boom Boom” Mancini, Mike Jones, Red Slaughter, the Bradley family, the Haughville neighborhood and Navistar, where Epps’s father worked for decades.
In an aside, he mentions talking to Mike Tyson (they co-starred in The Hangover), and how Tyson joked he never wanted to go back to Indy. Not mentioned: Because that’s where Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992, the same year Epps’s lawyer helped the comedian avoid jail time for undisclosed offenses. Although Epps later joked about being bad at dealing drugs.
When Epps does deviate from Indiana stories, he decides to defend Bill Cosby and Dave Chappelle?
The audience even offered up a smattering of applause when Epps started by saying, “See, I wanna be with Bill Cosby,” before bailing on the disgraced comedian, not for all of the rapes, but for talking smack about young Black men needing to pull up their pants. Epps also wanted to ignore Cosby’s victims of color by claiming instead that it was all the white women who snitched on him.
Later, Epps gave Chappelle props for his jokes against transgender people, saying: “That was a good thing that Dave Chappelle did. But I wouldn’t advise a mother-f—er that ain’t got no money to do it.” Before digging himself too much of a hole by suggesting that any protestors shouting “F— Mike Epps” might mean it literally, Epps added that people cannot be too angry about LGBTQ issues, because it’ll look like you’re hiding something. And gay people “don’t bother me,” Epps quipped. Even if he then claimed to be bothered by fan requests for photos in public.
Our Take: As I wrote about him more than six years ago, “Mike Epps is the guy at the party who shows up and makes it a party. He’s a fun hang. And that’s good enough for any Friday.”
He might be a fine actor, too. I would’ve enjoyed seeing his take on playing Richard Pryor, as he was cast to do so at one point in the comedy legend’s long-running biopic machinations. But none of those qualities translate into skilled joke-telling. You know, the kind of qualities you might look for when you click on, say, a Netflix stand-up comedy special.
Maybe Netflix just wants to stay in business with Epps. Maybe his previous specials did great numbers for them. Maybe there’s some other reason he keeps getting specials over other more deserving. Whatever the reason, no matter how heartwarming and well-received this hour might have felt in the house in Indianapolis, it just doesn’t translate to a national, or a global audience.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Unless you’re from Indianapolis or dying for some deep Hoosier references (the state, and not the movie), this hour doesn’t have much for you, especially if you’re looking for laughs. If you’re not from Naptown, it might be more lulls than LOLs.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.