The cute name notwithstanding, “Chocolate News” is really just a sketch comedy for the audience Dave Chappelle abandoned when his Comedy Central show went AWOL. Reaching back to his “In Living Color” days, David Alan Grier produces and stars in this fitfully funny half-hour, playing everyone from poet Maya Angelou to a rapper who creates a lewd public-service announcement for the No Child Left Behind act. Most of the sketches are milked a few beats too long, but the show has enough merit to fit the channel’s embarrassment-of-niches strategy.
Except for rare standouts like Sarah Silverman, the Viacom network pursues what amounts to a subdivided approach to comedy by aiming series at slices of the teenage-boy/young-guy audience — already a rather narrow demographic target, but whatever.
Fortunately, Grier comes to the task flanked by a deep bench of established comedy producers, including “Late Show” alum Robert Morton, currently associated with the channel’s Hispanic-themed quadrant via another ethnic sketch showcase, “Mind of Mencia.”
Promising to lampoon anything related to the African-American experience, the new program is risque (it’s hard to remember more bleeps in a single half-hour) but doesn’t veer far from the usual suspects. For whatever reason, the best bit, arguably, is the one prominently involving a white character — in this case, the ill-fated Caucasian correspondent for “Chocolate News,” who gets assigned all the most thankless jobs.
By contrast, an idea about treaty negotiations over using the N-word doubtless sounded funnier on paper, and the aforementioned rap number — complete with gyrating booties and filthy lyrics — proves initially amusing but isn’t legit enough to know when to quit.
There’s a current surplus of sketchcoms, mostly because the price is right and the fleeting hit-miss nature of the material caters to short attention spans. Measured against that curve, “Chocolate News” is a moderately tasty, low-nutrition snack — the kind that, with apologies to perhaps the next ethnic frontier, will leave you hungry a half-hour later.