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Jonah Drinkwater is a young black from the South who has come to Los Angeles to make his name as a stand-up comedian in the showcase clubs. But meanwhile Jonah needs a day job; so, through a rich screenwriter-uncle, he's hired on as a mailboy for a Hollywood studio that's involved in remaking old classic black films (in presumably less racist, stereotypical fashion). And Jonah, partly because he agrees to sleep with white, sex-starved producer Clea Menchen, fast becomes an assistant producer on Black Thunder--which, of course, turns out to be the same old white rip-off and trivialization: some of the black actors riot; the black screenwriters on the project drown their sorrows in freebased cocaine; and Jonah, going on stage one last time as a comic, gives it to everyone insultingly straight. ""Yeah, I'm sick, but if I am, you made me sick. If I'm a jiveass nigger, you made me one. . . Jonah is not here. . . He died a long time ago. You, the public, made me into an asshole, a Bigger Thomas, an Uncle Tom, a Stepin Fetchit, so ha, ha, ha! and kiss my black ass! Just kiddin'. Goodnight, folks!"" Brown (The Live and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger) brings plenty of anger and propulsion to this one-note satire. Unfortunately, however, the treatment is often ineffectually broad: e.g., producers named ""Krass"" and ""Suckoff."" The prose, perhaps intentionally, is sometimes hard to construe: ""Oh! Elegant bullshit! Is not Hollywood not your home town! This was the place where thousands of us are driven each year to find a dream when we find it that it never existed at all."" And Jonah's comedy routines--supposedly great laugh-getters--only score occasionally. A farce with good, strong intentions, then, but one that's more noisy than either funny or compelling.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux