Chris Rock

Chris Rock

Date of birth: 07-02-1966
Born in South Carolina, but raised in Brooklyn, Chris Rockstarted hanging out on the New York comedy club circuit when he was still an adolescent.

He was performing at the New York Comedy Strip in about 1984, when Eddie Murphy caught his act and identified him as an rising star, even though he was still a teenager. Murphy cast Rock in Beverly Hills Cop II, in a small role as a parking valet, but it helped him land a couple more minor supporting roles, and eventually a spot on NBC's Saturday Night Live, which he was on from 1990 to 1993. During his SNL stint, Rock also sometimes guest-starred in Keenan Ivory Wayans' sketch series In Living Color.

In 1991, Rock landed his first dramatic screen role, as a naive crack addict-cum-informant in Mario Van Peebles' New Jack City. Other early film roles have included a hot-headed law enforcement agent in 1998's Lethal Weapon 4 , a bitter an apostle of Jesus in Kevin Smith's 1999 film Dogma, and an obnoxious foul-mouthed hitman in Neil La Bute's controversial black comedy Nurse Betty in 2000.

Rock recorded his first HBO special, Big Ass Jokes, in 1996. But he established himself as a major stand-up force with his second special Bring the Pain in 1996, which earned him two Emmy awards and substantially widened his appeal. The same year, he received a third Emmy for his work as a writer and correspondent for Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.

In 1997, HBO signed Rock for an edgy sketch series, The Chris Rock Show, that ran until 2000. During that run, Rock published his autobiography Rock This! (in 1998) and recorded his third HBO special, Bigger & Blacker (in 1999). His four special, Never Scared, debuted in 2004.

In 2001, Rock wrote and starred in the film Down to Earth, a remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and again in Pootie Tang, a spin-off from The Chris Rock Show. He also directed, co-wrote and starred in 2003's Head of State as an unlikely presidential candidate for the Democratic party. In 2007, Rock added producer to the credits as he wrote, directed and starred in the sex comedy I Think I Love My Wife, a remake of Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon!. Rock has also lent his voice to one of the characters in Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and Marty the Zebra in Madagascar (2005) and its 2008 sequel.

Although his film outings have never really matched his stand-up for success and critical acclaim, his TV profile was boosted by the semi-autobiographical sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, that debuted in September 2005. Written and produced by Rock, who also provides a voiceover, Tyler James Williams plays a younger version of the comedian, during his schooldays in the early Eighties.

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Chris Rock: Total Blackout

Note: This review is from 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the SSE Arena Wembley

At the end of his Total Blackout show, Chris Rock takes his bow to a montage of adored – and deceased – comedy heroes including George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Robin Williams. It is intended as a tribute, but also a reminder that Rock is worthy of his place in their league, with his 1990s specials Bring The Pain and Bigger And Blacker establishing him as the most exciting, provocative and most insightful voice in comedy, especially when it came to matters of race.

But it’s been the best part of a decade years since he toured… and the imperative for his return could be as much financial as artistic, given that it followed an expensive divorce from his wife of 18 years. The reported $40million Netflix deal will sure come in handy.

Has the time away, making films like Madagascar and Grown Ups, dulled him? Yes, a bit. Now in his 50s, he doesn’t have the burning relevance of his breakthroughs. He seems behind society’s curve, not ahead of it, when he talks of relationships in which the man is always the provider and the woman stays home, looking after the decor and maybe having affairs. Men have to schedule such extramarital affairs at night – much more tricky.

Rock might know a bit about that, since his marriage collapsed after he had three flings. He thinks the number’s low, since there was more opportunity – but offers that as a matter of fact more than mitigation. There’s honesty in his admission of the affairs and his porn addiction, and in how he describes his torment during the battle for custody of his two teenage daughters.

Divorce certainly seems to have put him through the mill a bit – you can forgive the jaded edge to some of the material, though he eventually emerges defiant, leading the charge for relationship harmony with the unlikely rallying cry: ‘Tambourine, motherfucker, tambourine!’ 

However, the honest, bitter-sweet routines aren’t best-suited to arena comedy, especially given the moral ambiguity as to whose side we’re supposed to be on, and the laughs are sometimes uneven as Rock tries to wrangle messy real-life into the certainties he usually prefers in his comedy. But kudos for seeking to reflect on the complex and the personal.

Get Rock on race, though, and he’s as potent as ever, with an early section about the deaths of black kids at the hands of police, biting and darkly funny. His rejoinder to the pat response about ‘a few bad apples’ conclusively nails the issue.

Rock hasn’t quite got the definitive take on other hot-button issues. With topics such as America’s gun lobby, religion, the fact kids aren’t all special and need a bit of bullying to spur them on, and even airport security, he’s on similar ground to a lot of other socially aware comics – which is most of them. 

But Rock is undeniably very good at his job, and he sells each point with those familiar strained vowels and punchy cadence. He’s unstoppable even when he messes up a local reference - pretending he’d spent time in ‘Beckham’ when he wanted to evoke a poor neighbourhood (presumably Peckham). The impetus he gives every line pulls the thousands of people in the room with him.

The irony of Rock complaining about airport security won’t be lost on those who spent half an hour queuing to get in through the Wembley Arena metal detectors and desks where you had to lock your phone in a pouch.  But apart from the delays getting in, this is a good idea, enforcing people to immerse themselves in the experience they paid for, eliminating distractions all round – as well as addressing the issue of unsanctioned videos of gigs emerging on the internet.

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Published: 29 Jan 2018

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