Jamie Foxx hams up Hollywood
At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday, February 24
Jamie Foxx is pretty good at a lot of things—acting, singing, stand-up—but he's terrific at being a ham, the kind of high-wattage performer who cuts his narcissism with just enough sarcastic charm to make people love him. Take the fact that last Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre he mentioned his Oscar win—for his starring role in Ray—nearly two dozen times, but whenever he did it, he'd raise an eyebrow or turn his gaze downward, as if acknowledging how gauche it was to keep bringing it up.
Foxx plays piano and has serviceable pipes, but he made his name in the early 1990s on the stand-up circuit, stepping through one of the many doors opened by Eddie Murphy for young black comics. When he recorded 2002's I Might Need Security, he was still covering the same subjects he always had—namely, sex and drugs—but he'd also started telling celebrity jokes, fictional accounts of his escapades as a mid-level Hollywood insider. Five years later, what sets Foxx apart is not his bits, but his fame. His routines nowadays show little in the way of comic craftsmanship; they're just the work of a megastar who happens to tell funny stories. The folks who watched him in Vancouver didn't learn much about Foxx himself, but they did get an inkling that Hollywood looks just as strange to him as it does to us.
Wearing jeans, a black T-shirt emblazoned with his sequined initials, and a hideous military-cut red leather blazer, Foxx ran briskly through his set, which he must have written with a stack of People magazines by his side. Paris Hilton, Michael Richards, the diaper-clad astronaut lady: the comic flogged these dead horses shamelessly, separating himself from Jay Leno and David Letterman by vulgarity alone. Highlights included speculation on what Britney Spears's vagina might sound like if it spoke and a brief meditation on what might happen if gays took over the NBA. Foxx figured there'd be more loose-ball fouls. Insert rimshot here.
After an intermission, he returned in loverman mode, his white linen suit and diamond earrings emitting the kind of aggressive glare that only the obscenely wealthy can pull off. Foxx is even more guarded as a singer, belting out by-the-numbers R&B jams with his tongue half in cheek, as if he's not sure he likes the cheese he's peddling. The singer has guested on other people's hits (like Kanye West's “Goldigger”), but he's never scored a success of his own; in fact, the songs he's best known for are Ray Charles's, so when Foxx reappeared in a bow tie and chunky dark glasses, the audience granted him its warmest applause all night. The actor kept at the mimicry well past the point of creepiness, and by the time he started grinding a pair of buxom go-go dancers, the air was rich with the scent of sizzling pork.