Look, this week it’s time to devote some time to a phenomenon that I think is a little underappreciated. That phenomenon is Dwayne The Rock Johnson’s comic timing.
“What’s prompted this, Ralph?” you ask, plaintively. “What’s got you thinking this, dude?” Well, my saucy little friend, I will tell you – although please do not call me ‘dude’.
On March 15, The Rock – the man we know and love, the man whom many of us love as an uncle, the man who now has 101 million followers on Instagram – shared a taster video of him (below) larking around with TV chat show host Conan O’Brien. Now, Conan’s a funny guy. For my money he’s wittier and more naturally funny than Jimmies Fallon and Kimmel, and it is a disgrace that in the UK he is not more well known. But here, hilarious though Conan is, he is matched almost step for step by D(TR)J.
The full video is below, and it’s worth a watch. Silly old Conan thinks he’s up to the task of being The Rock’s stunt double, given that he sees himself as having an almost identical build. The Rock obviously disagrees. You can tell from the looseness, the elasticity, that this concept would have been a template for the pair to follow, as opposed to a tightly scripted sketch. It would have been steered by Conan but plenty of room would have remained for improvisation. Whether the following response was improvised or scripted, D(TR)J delivers it nicely. Conan is pointing at The Rock’s body and trying to explain that their physiques are, to him, virtually identical:
Conan: “I see this and I’m like ‘I’m looking in a mirror.’”
The Rock: “Really? Like a carnival mirror? Like the weird ones…?”
That’s great. The phrase ‘carnival mirror’ is great. And it comes out fast. I can tell you from experience – it’s not easy to say ‘carnival mirror’ that quickly. You’ve got to be fast. The Rock continues to be great long after this moment – laughing occasionally at Conan’s quips but not being overwhelmed by the comedian’s speed. Later he tells a man dressed as an albino gorilla that he doesn’t give a fuck about his feelings. It’s brilliantly weird.
Do we appreciate this man’s comic facility enough? I’m not sure we do, brethren. I’m not convinced we appreciate how quick-witted The Rock is; how speedily he is able to fire back a well-formed response; how able he is to harness the media’s image of him for comic effect, rather than letting it pigeonhole him as a simple-headed beef mountain.
His ability with humour will in part be informed by his constant need and insistence to be ‘on’, talking to some person or some social media platform every few minutes. But it isn’t just this. People can be constantly on and constantly vapid. No, it’s not just that he gets a lot of practice. There’s something else. There’s something in his eye. A little shine, a little twinkle. “I’m in on the joke,” the twinkle says. “And I love it.”
For those of you who have not yet seen it, this is the funniest video The Rock has ever appeared in.
It is to his credit that he remains deadpan throughout, committing to the concept entirely. Watch, enjoy, and thank me later. And, most importantly, stay hungry. Stay humble.
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(Illustration: Dan Evans)