In the classic comedy “Hollywood Shuffle” (1987), a pair of Black movie critics gave their takes on predominantly white blockbusters. A similar idea fuels Jordan Black’s hilarious improv show “The Black Version” at the Kennedy Center this Thursday through Saturday.
“At the beginning of the show, our director polls the audience for movie titles,” Black told WTOP. “We pick a real movie like ‘Titanic’ or ‘Star Wars,’ then we immediately improvise the Black version. … We do one movie for the night, then in the second half of the show we do the DVD extras: deleted scenes, lost auditions, a song cut from the soundtrack.”
There’s only one stipulation: the audience suggestions must be from universally popular movies to ensure maximum enjoyment for the rest of the folks in attendance.
“The title of ‘Jaws’ was ‘Catfish,” Black said. “We did ‘Pretty Woman,’ that was called ‘Hot Mess.’ We did ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ that was called ‘When Ray Ray Boned Keisha.’ We did ‘Back to the Future,’ which of course was called ‘Black to the Future.’ After Black Marty McFly fixed the future, his dad was no longer the bullied nerd, he was Barack Obama.”
The show is celebrating its 12th year after starting at The Groundlings comedy troupe in Los Angeles in 2010. “Doing improv as a Black person, you don’t see a lot of Black improvisers, so over many years of doing improv, I slowly met more and more Black improvisers, so at a certain point I felt that I had enough to do an all-Black improv show.”
Black will take the stage alongside Nyima Funk (“Wild N’ Out”), Daniele Gaither (“MADtv”), Phil LaMarr (“MADtv”) and Gary Anthony Williams (“Boondocks”). The original cast also included Cedric Yarbrough, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, along with special guests like Tiffany Haddish, Wayne Brady, Niecey Nash, Jerry Minor and Angela Shelton.
You’ll recognize Black from his roles on “Community,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Ballers” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He’s also shined behind the scenes as a writer on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Wonder Years.”
“It’s the most fun,” Black said. “The show is excellent. We won a Peabody last season. It’s such a great show and I’m really proud of it.”