This Thing On?

Maybe Jamie Foxx is funnier in person.

As a comic performer, Jamie Foxx has sustained a career that can be best described as, well, mediocre. His glory days as part of the mighty Fox sketchcom In Living Color far behind him, the 34-year-old Terrell, Texas, native has since had to rely more on his self-centered charm (and muscular upper body) than any actual wit.

The evidence is all there: For five seasons, he starred in his own WB sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show, an intelligence-insulting show that, right up to the last episode, didn't even attempt to hide its lameness. In 1997, he starred in the definitive black-people-getting-laid-by-any-means-necessary comedy, Booty Call, a movie that made you long for the honest raunchiness of the Porky's trilogy. And his recent stint as host of this year's MTV Video Music Awards, where he turned out tactless celebrities-in-rehab jokes like he was a ghetto Jay Leno, reminded people that Chris Rock could've done that gig in a body cast and still brought down the house.

But there have been bright spots in Foxx's less-than-polished career as an ensemble actor. In his underappreciated supporting role as a low-rent boxing manager in 1996's The Great White Hype, he dropped such hilariously subtle lines as "You're not my daddy -- are you?" to Samuel L. Jackson. But it was his believable performance in the 1999 Oliver Stone football epic Any Given Sunday that took people by surprise since, to paraphrase Rip Taylor in a Psychic Friends infomercial from a few years back, people didn't know he could "act."

Foxx is once again using his dramatic skills to play trainer Drew "Bundini" Brown in Ali, but he's also coming to town for a couple of stand-up shows. If you're looking for a few giggles, you can see him pull out his ol' Ugly Wanda shtick live. But you may have to go to the multiplex to see his talents truly at work.


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