Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
In November 2008 GQ Magazine ran an article called Will You Be My Black Friend? about author Devin Friedman‘s lame attempts to make friends with an African-American gent or two via his few black friends and Craigslist. The concept is funny, but the underlying idea was interesting: after a certain point in our lives we’re less likely to make friends who are outside our own social and cultural circle. Now Lionsgate and Harpo Films (Oprah’s company) will develop the article into a comedy starring Chris Rock.
Variety doesn’t report much beyond the fact that Rock will be tapped as the star. But going back to the original article, it’s easy to see where the comedy potential comes in. Given that Rock’s stand-up frequently mines differences between black and white culture in an astute way, there’s no better guy to star. The article begins, more or less, with this:
I had a cocktail party the other night. A natural moment to look around at the demographics of your life. And I thought: Jesus Christ, there are a lot of white people in this room…it’s time to acknowledge that I’ve become a character in a Wes Anderson movie. I wear white tennis sneakers from the ’70s. I listen to ambient music. I have dinner parties where I serve Spanish rosé and this softer version of mozzarella that has a lovely, almost liquid center that you can only get at the Italian import store…Sometimes I’d really like to punch myself in the face.
The article has a couple parallel lines. One is about just making friends when you’re not 23 (“I kept meeting people for a drink, just the two of us, at a bar where it was quiet enough to talk. That isn’t how you make a friend. That’s a blind date.”) and the other is very much about Friedman’s racial self-consciousness. Like so:
I was already feeling a little bit like the spotlight was on me. The token white boy. But I started examining myself as if I were a friend I was seeing again for the first time in twenty years. It gave me the strangest feeling, like I’d come down with a weird neural condition where I can’t recognize myself in pictures. I couldn’t remember ever deciding to be this person. I thought: Who picked out these clothes? Am I really wearing suede boots? Do I actually like gingham? Why am I wearing what might be called girl jeans? Do I like any of this stuff? Who picked out this personality? Not me. I don’t remember making these decisions.
The obvious question, then is, who plays the article’s author? (Rock’s friend and occasional writing partner Louis CK seems like a stretch, but you never know.) With the right person as Friedman, this could be a solid cultural buddy comedy. (And with the wrong cast and/or script it could just be tremendously painful and obvious.) Bottom line: anything that gets Rock onscreen is potentially great, and the self-deprecating nature of the original article could make for a really funny film. You can read the original version of ‘Will You Be My Black Friend?’ at GQ.