Christopher Julius “Chris” Rock III (born February 7, 1965) is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter, television producer, film producer and director. He was voted in the US as the 5th greatest stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central. He was also voted in the UK as the 9th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups in 2007, and again in the updated 2010 list as the 8th greatest stand-up comic.
Rock was born in Andrews, South Carolina. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. A few years later, they relocated and settled in the working-class area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. His mother, Rosalie (née Tingman), was a teacher and social worker for the mentally handicapped; his father, Julius Rock, was a former truck driver and newspaper deliveryman.Julius died in 1988 after ulcer surgery. His younger brothers Tony, Kenny and Jordan are also in the entertainment business. His older half-brother, Charles, died in 2006 due to a long struggle with alcoholism. Rock has said that he was influenced by the performing style of his paternal grandfather, Allen Rock, a preacher.
Rock was bused to schools in predominately white neighborhoods of Brooklyn where he endured bullying and beatings from white students. As he got older, the bullying became worse and Rock’s parents pulled him out of James Madison High School. He decided to drop out of high school altogether and later received a GED. Rock worked menial jobs at various fast-food restaurants.
Rock began doing stand-up comedy in 1984 in New York City’s Catch a Rising Star. He slowly rose up the ranks of the comedy circuit in addition to earning bit roles in the film I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and the TV series Miami Vice. Upon seeing his act at a nightclub, Eddie Murphy befriended and mentored the aspiring comic. Murphy gave Rock his first film role in Beverly Hills Cop II.
Saturday Night Live
Rock became a cast member of the popular sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live in 1990. He and other new cast members Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade became known as the Bad Boys of SNL. In 1991, he released his first comedy album Born Suspect and won acclaim for his dramatic role as a crack addict in the film New Jack City. His tenure on SNL gave Rock national exposure.
A frustrated Rock left Saturday Night Live in 1993, appearing instead as a “special guest” star on the predominantly African American sketch show In Living Color. The show, however, was canceled months later. Rock then decided to concentrate on a film career. He wrote and starred in the mockumentary CB4 but the film was not a success. Acting jobs became scarce, and Rock abandoned Hollywood to concentrate on stand-up comedy.
Rock starred in his first HBO comedy special in 1994 titled Big Ass Jokes. But it was his second stand-up special, 1996’s Bring the Pain, that reinvented Rock as one of the best comedians in the industry. His routine, which featured commentaries on race in America, stirred up a great deal of controversy. Rock won two Emmy Awards for that special. Adding to his popularity was his much-publicized role as a commentator for Comedy Central‘s Politically Incorrect during the 1996 Presidential elections which earned him another Emmy nomination. Rock also was the voice for the “Lil Penny” puppet who was the alter ego to basketball star Penny Hardaway in a series ofNike shoe commercials from 1994–1998, and hosted the ’97 MTV Video Music Awards.
Rock later had two more HBO comedy specials: Bigger & Blacker in 1999, and Never Scared in 2004. Articles relating to both specials called Rock “the funniest man in America” in Time and Entertainment Weekly. HBO also aired his talk show, The Chris Rock Show, which gained critical acclaim for Rock’s interviews with celebrities and politicians. The show won an Emmy for writing. His television work has won him a total of three Emmy Awardsand 15 nominations. By the end of the decade, Rock was established as one of the preeminent stand-up comedians and comic minds of his generation.
Film and television
It was not until the success of his stand-up act in the late 1990s that Rock began receiving major parts in films. These include roles in Dogma, Beverly Hills Ninja, Lethal Weapon 4,Nurse Betty, The Longest Yard, Bad Company, and a starring role in Down to Earth. Rock has also increasingly worked behind the camera, both as a writer and director of Head of Stateand I Think I Love My Wife. In the fall of 2005, the UPN television network premiered a comedy series called Everybody Hates Chris, based on Rock’s school days, of which he is theexecutive producer and narrator. The show has garnered both critical and ratings success. The series was nominated for a 2006 Golden Globe for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy), a 2006 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Television Comedy, and two 2006 Emmy Awards for costuming and cinematography.
In early 2005, Rock hosted the 77th Academy Awards ceremony. The decision to have Rock host the awards was seen by some as a chance to bring an “edge” to the ceremony, and to make it more relevant or appealing to younger audiences. Jokingly, Rock opened by saying “Welcome to the 77th and LAST Academy Awards!” During one segment Rock asked, “Who is this guy?” in reference to actor Jude Law seemingly appearing in every movie Rock had seen that year and implied Law was a low-rent Tom Cruise (he made a joke about filmmakers rushing production when unable to get the actors they want: “If you want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law, wait [to make the film]!”). Subsequently, a defensive Sean Penntook the stage to present and said, “In answer to our host’s question, Jude Law is one of our finest young actors.” (At the time, Penn and Law were shooting All the King’s Men.) Law was not the only actor that Rock poked fun at that evening, however—he turned the joke on himself at one point, saying, “If you want Denzel [Washington] and all you can get is me, wait!” Older Oscar officials were reportedly displeased with Rock’s performance, which did not elevate ratings for the ceremony. Rock was also criticized for referring to the Oscars as “idiotic”, and asserting that heterosexual men do not watch them, in an interview prior to Oscar night.
Rock’s first music video was for his song “Your Mother’s Got a Big Head” from his album Born Suspect. Rock also made videos for his songs “Champagne” from Roll With the New and “No Sex (In the Champagne Room)” from Bigger & Blacker. Chris Rock also directed and appeared in the music video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Hump de Bump“.
Rock appeared in the Big Daddy Kane music video “Smooth Operator” as a guy getting his hair cut.
In October 2010, The New York Times reported that Rock will be performing on Broadway in Stephen Adly Guirgis‘ play The Motherfucker with the Hat in the spring of 2011. Other cast members will include Bobby Cannavale and Annabella Sciorra.
Comedic style and views
Rock’s subject matter typically involves family, politics, romance, music, class relationships, and race relations in the United States. Though not strictly autobiographical, much of his comic standpoint seem rooted in his teenage experience; his strict parents, concerned about the inadequacies of the local school system, arranged to have the adolescent Rock busedto a nearly all-white high school in Bensonhurst (an Italian-ethnic neighborhood of Brooklyn known at the time for poor race relations). In his memoir Rock This, the comedian recalls, “My parents assumed I’d get a better education in a better neighborhood. What I actually got was a worse education in a worse neighborhood. And a whole bunch of ass-whippings.”
The comedian has also expressed discomfort with the notion that success in standup comedy—or, indeed, in any aspect of the entertainment industry—should oblige him to serve as arole model. In this position, he finds himself directly at odds with one of his comic idols, Bill Cosby. Cosby has reprimanded Rock both explicitly—for his famous/notorious Niggas vs. Black People track —and implicitly, for heavy use of the word “nigger.” Rock has not wavered from a position explored in his 1996 Roll With The New show, and reiterated in his 1997 memoir: “Why does the public expect entertainers to behave better than everybody else? It’s ridiculous…Of course, this is just for black entertainers. You don’t see anyone telling Jerry Seinfeld he’s a good role model. Because everyone expects whites to behave themselves…Nowadays, you’ve got to be an entertainer and a leader. It’s too much.” Often the subject of tabloids, when asked about paparazzi and the other negative aspects of fame, Rock says he accepts the bad with the good: “You can’t be happy that fire cooks your food and be mad it burns your fingertips.”
At the London Live Earth concert on July 7, 2007, which was broadcast live on the BBC, before introducing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rock called the crowd “motherfuckers” and “shit” after a brief sigh when he said he was joking. Due to the broadcast being at 5:45pm Rock was immediately cut off, and the BBC made several apologies for his use of the word “motherfucker”.
Rock has been married to Malaak Compton-Rock since November 23, 1996. She is the founder and executive director of StyleWorks, a non-profit, full-service salon that provides free services for women leaving welfare and entering the workforce. They have two daughters together, Lola Simone (born June 28, 2002) and Zahra Savannah (born May 22, 2004).
In November 2006, the entertainment news website TMZ.com reported that Rock was filing for divorce after nearly ten years of marriage to Malaak. Two weeks later, however, TMZ reported that Rock had not filed divorce papers, and that it appeared that the couple had been able to work out their differences and stay together. In response to the reports, the Rocks released a statement to the press denouncing them as “untrue rumors and lies”.
In 2007, freelance journalist and former actress Kali Bowyer filed a paternity suit against Chris Rock, claiming he was the father of her son, and in need of hospitalization. DNA testing proved that Rock was not the child’s father.[dead link]
In 2008, Rock’s family history was profiled on the PBS series African American Lives 2. A DNA test showed that he is descended from the Udeme people of northern Cameroon.Rock’s great-great-grandfather Julius Caesar Tingman was a slave for 21 years before serving as part of the United States Colored Troops until 1866; Tingman fought in the American Civil War. During the 1940s, Rock’s grandfather Alan Rock moved from South Carolina to New York City to become a taxicab driver and preacher.
|1987||Beverly Hills Cop II||Playboy Mansion Valet|
|1988||Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen||Himself||Direct-to-video Concert film|
|1988||I’m Gonna Git You Sucka||Rib Joint Customer|
|1989||Who Is Chris Rock?||Himself||Documentary Short|
|1991||New Jack City||Pookie|
|1993||CB4||Albert Brown/M.C. Gusto||Also wrote story, screenplay and was co-producer|
|1995||The Immortals||Deke Anthony|
|1996||Sgt. Bilko||1st Lt. Oster|
|1997||Beverly Hills Ninja||Joey Washington|
|1998||Lethal Weapon 4||Detective Lee Butters|
|1999||Torrance Rises||Himself||Documentary short|
|2001||Down to Earth||Lance Barton||Also co-writer and executive producer|
|2001||AI: Artificial Intelligence||Mecha Comedian||Voice/cameo|
|2001||Pootie Tang||JB/Radio DJ/Pootie’s Father||Also producer|
|2001||Osmosis Jones||Osmosis Jones||Voice|
|2001||Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back||Chaka Luther King||Cameo|
|2002||Bad Company||Jake Hayes/Kevin Pope/Michael Turner|
|2003||Pauly Shore Is Dead||Himself||Cameo|
|2003||Head of State||Mays Gilliam||Also director, producer and co-writer|
|2004||Paparazzi||Pizza Delivery Guy||Cameo|
|2005||The Longest Yard||Farrell Caretaker|
|2007||I Think I Love My Wife||Richard Marcus Cooper||Also director and co-writer|
|2007||Bee Movie||Mooseblood the Mosquito||Voice|
|2008||You Don’t Mess with the Zohan||Taxi Driver||Cameo|
|2008||Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa||Marty and other zebras||Voice|
|2010||Death at a Funeral||Aaron||Also producer, Remake of the 2007 film of the same name|
|2010||Grown Ups||Kurt McKenzie|
|1997||Roll with the New||93||41|
|1999||Bigger & Blacker||44||26|
|1987||Uptown Comedy Express||Himself||HBO special|
|1987||Miami Vice||Carson||Episode: Missing Hours|
|1990–1993||Saturday Night Live||Various||Cast member|
|1993–1994||In Living Color||Various||Recurring|
|1994||Big Ass Jokes||Himself||HBO special|
|1995||The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Maurice/Jasmine||Episode: “Get a Job“|
|1996–1998||The Moxy Show||Flea||Uncredited voice role|
|1996||Martin||Valentino||Episode: “The Love Jones Connection“|
|1996||Homicide: Life on the Street||Carver||Episode: “Requiem for Adena“|
|1996||Bring the Pain||Himself||HBO special|
|1997||MTV Music Video Awards||Himself||Host|
|1997–2000||The Chris Rock Show||Himself||Cast member, writer|
|1998||King of the Hill||Roger “Booda” Sack||Episode: “Traffic Jam“|
|1999||MTV Music Video Awards||Himself||Host|
|1999||Bigger & Blacker||Himself||HBO special|
|2003||MTV Music Video Awards||Himself||HBO special|
|2004||77th Academy Awards||Himself||Host|
|2004||Never Scared||Himself||HBO special|
|2005–2009||Everybody Hates Chris||Narrator||Creator|
|2008||Kill the Messenger||Himself||HBO special|
- Bring the Pain (1996)
- Bigger & Blacker (1999)
- Black Ambition (2003–2004)
- No Apologies (2007–2008)