On Edge

Caucasians, fear not: Hazelle Goodman welcomes you to her one-woman show. "I like it when white folks come," she says tartly. "They buy their tickets in advance." But Goodman is an equal opportunity haranguer. She taunts blacks, whites, singles, couples, yuppies, buppies, and in a bravura bit, all those possessed of "Afros, dreadlocks, bald heads—please!"

Twisting her mass of braids into pigtails, ponytails, updos, and knots, she dominates the stage. Though she declaims in jerky rhythms and many of the jokes misfire, the audience immediately adores and fears her. They laugh and shriek when she singles them out for personal attention, and chorus with uh-huhs and mm-hmms in the quieter sections.

It's manner rather than material that's Goodman's strength. Several of the pieces—concerning health nuts, feng shui, implants—feel dated, whereas others never quite gel. A notable exception is a motivational speech called "Get Out of the Ghetto" in which, tongue-in-cheek, she excoriates African Americans for their modes of speech, dress, and action. She advocates assimilation, praising Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell for "hard work, persistence, and loss of identity." In a less forgiving moment she admits she'd rather find Condoleezza and "slap the black back into her." Condoleezza should take care. If Goodman's delivering the blow, it's bound to sting.

 
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