D.L. Hughley: Unapologetic



10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22

D.L. Hughley is one of those comedians who kind of operates under the radar. You won't hear about him for years, then suddenly he's got his own sitcom on ABC for four years. He'll disappear again for awhile, when he's featured on the "Original Kings of Comedy Tour" and in the subsequent film by Spike Lee -- and then as a regular on the late "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."

The reason he keeps resurfacing is that he's legitimately funny and insightful, not to mention smooth as ice. Hughley puts that talent on display again in "Unapologetic," his fourth solo HBO stand-up special (the others were in 1992, '94 and '99) and a razor-sharp showcase of his ethnic-tinged and yet universal wit.

Unlike the overbearing Carlos Mencia and the slickly shallow Dane Cook, the likable Hughley is the real deal, a guy who comes with his A-material and nails every line with smarts and savvy. He's something of a more streetwise Chris Rock, connecting with the audience from the first minute through the last.

Taped before a live audience at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, Hughley mines his comedy from such hot-button social issues as the immigration debate, the "n" word, Don Imus and freedom of speech ("There are more black people in jail than in college, and we're fucking around worrying about Don Imus?") and the relative racial advantages of being white vs. black ("I'll switch places with y'all white people anytime. We get to rule the world, and you get to say 'nigger,' 'bitch' and 'ho' ").

While he speaks in the loosey-goosey slang of black stand-up -- which means plenty of racy adjectives and descriptors sprinkled in to enhance his delivery -- there is nothing gratuitous or patronizing in his shtick. Hughley is deceptively astute in the subtle way he attaches thought-provoking observation to his punch lines, which are anything but restrained. May he tour long and prosper.