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Ephemereview: Snaps: The Ultimate Yo Mama Battle

I have yet another sad confession to make. Growing up, I was deeply ashamed of my mother. Her myriad shortcomings, chronic obesity, advanced age and rank stupidity made her a figure of fun on the playground throughout my childhood.

It seems like every other day another pint-sized ruffian would saunter up to me and cheekily taunt, "Hey Nathan, yo mama is so dumb she heard it was chilly so she ran outside with a bowl. Furthermore, she's so slow-witted that she thinks a quarterback is a refund." All I could do was hang my head sadly and concede that everything they said about my mama was true. Shamefully, shamefully true.

But that was far from the end of it. It wasn't just that my mother was so dense that she had difficulty comprehending even the most basic concepts and most common, widely understood turns of phrase. She was also so old that her first car was a dinosaur and she had Jesus' pager number. Weight was also an issue. When she sat around the house she quite literally sat around the house. That is to say that her body was so enormous that the entire house was blanketed by her massive girth. It was not a pretty scene.


Yet despite these formative traumas, I grew up loving "Yo Mama" jokes, playing the dozens and snapping. So I was exhilarated when a DVD containing two episodes of an HBO something-or-other called Snaps The Ultimate Yo Mama battle showed up on my desk.

The premise is simple. A deeply unfunny stand-up comedian named Monteria Ivey–who died at 41 in 2001–hosts an all-out snap skirmish where two groups of stand-up comedians take turns dissing each other's mamas in what can only be described as "the ultimate yo momma battle".


Ivey warms up the crowd with a blizzard of good-natured insults at audience members. In a preview of what's to come, the crowd guffaws uproariously at even the weakest quips. The constant hysterical laughter that accompanies Ivey's labored one-liners suggests that great billowing clouds of nitrous oxide were pumped into the nightclub just before the show while the amped-up, almost spastic physical mugging of the snappers suggests they were passing around big bags of blow to get them into a probably jacked-up mood.

Snaps should be awesome. Instead, it's a mostly painful, laughless combination of the tried-and-true ("Yo Mama so old the bitch squirt powdered milk outta her titties") and the new and feeble ("(Yo Mama) has a big-ass head. She's got a head so big every time she goes down to tie her shoes she flips the fuck over"), augmented by desperate physical comedy, shameless mugging and gratuitous profanity that does little to obscure the dearth of wit on display.


Watching Snaps reminded me of one of my favorite throwaway lines from Chappelle's Show. A mysterious Chinese vendor warns Chappelle that a video camera he's buying will show "things many would pay not to see" to which the unflappable host retorts, "Oh snap, it's got Comic View?" Well, Snaps is sub-Comic View, which itself was sub-Def Comedy Jam.

On the plus side, Snaps does feature Tracy Morgan wearing a colorful beanie with his name on it. That's pretty fucking awesome. Alas, it's pretty much the only awesome aspect of this waste of a great American art form. Christ, even my fat, ugly, old, nasty-ass mom could snap better than most of these fools. And she's so dumb she went to a movie that said ''under 18 not admitted,'' so she left to go get 17 of her friends. You gotta admit: that's pretty fucking dumb.


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