Comedian James Davis frames his new Comedy Central show Hood Adjacent as a guide to black culture, whether he’s breaking down the uses of the N word or trying to increase his appreciation for chitlins. It’s a good showcase for him: He frames taped segments with bits of his standup comedy in front of a studio audience.
Davis explains the show’s title in the premiere on Wednesday night. He tells us he grew up near, but not in, the South Central L.A. neighborhood made world-famous by rappers. “I’m not ’hood,” he explains. “I’m hood-adjacent.” In one of the opener’s taped pieces, he goes deep into South Central to try to earn a “hood pass,” but that’s not the best display of what Davis can do with this show. Two other segments are richer in both humor and social observation. In one, he gathers a group of friends plus his uncle to eat chitlins — “soul food,” as he puts it, that he has thus far in his life failed to enjoy.
In another bit, Davis gives his take on why he believes “The Star Spangled Banner” is “the whitest song of all time” — beating even Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” I was not familiar with what Davis calls the “racist third verse” of the song, and his research into the life of song composer Francis Scott Key is, alas, all too informative. What could have been a grim exploration of yet another example of our racist history gets a laugh-lift at the end, when Davis presents a music video offering a trap-music version of the national anthem.
In the coming weeks, Davis will present themed episodes about black activism (he prefers the term “blacktivism”) and black college life, both of them simultaneously funny and enlightening to white viewers like me. Davis is a charming guy with a lot to say.
Hood Adjacent with James Davis airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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