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Rock, Chris 1966–

Chris Rock 1966–

Comedian, actor

Chris Rock worked as a stand-up comic in local New York comedy clubs from the time he was a teenager. It was in these clubs that he learned how to make people laugh, a skill that he developed into a highly successful career. With a hit comedy show on UPN, two appearances as host of the MTV Video Music Awards and one at the Academy Awards, two Grammy-winning comedy albums, and numerous film appearances, Rock is definitely on a roll.

Grew up Doing Comedy

Rock grew up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The eldest of six children, he dropped out of school and went to work as busboy, a mental hospital orderly, and a laborer unloading trucks for the New York Daily News, where his father was employed. Rock's sharp, political, and streetwise humor cracked up his co-workers, so he decided to take his act to the local comedy club circuit. After viewing Rock's performance at Manhattan's Comic Strip Club in 1986, actor-comedian Eddie Murphy found the young comedian a spot on his HBO special Uptown Comedy Express and gave him a small role in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987). Rock's portrayal of a rib joint customer a year later in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), a parody of a 1970s African-American exploitation film, led to appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show. Rock soon attracted the attention of Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels, who asked him to audition for the show.

After a mass audition in Chicago in 1990, Michaels hired Rock as a featured player for the late-night show. Even though he created memorable characters such as the militant talk-show host Nat X, Rock was dissatisfied with Saturday Night Live, so he left the show in 1993. In a 1996 Internet chat on Up Close, he remarked that during his stint with Saturday Night Live he “felt like the adopted [black] kid with great white parents.” In 1993 Rock joined the cast of the predominantly African-American sketch show In Living Color, but the show was canceled the following year.

Besides his work on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color, Rock developed a career as a film actor. In 1991 he received critical accolades for his performance in New Jack City, a film about a team of cops who bring down a Harlem drug lord. Rock played the character Pookie, a young African-American man trapped in a world of drugs and violence. To prepare for the role, Rock spent several days on the streets with a Brooklyn drug addict. The following year, he played the role of Bony T in the Eddie Murphy film Boom-erang. In 1993 Rock also starred as Albert in the rap parody CB4, a film that he wrote and coproduced.

Experienced a Stalling Career

During the mid-1990s Rock's career appeared to stall. Even though he did several comedy specials for HBO and had a role in the 1995 film Panther, he had no offers to do an upcoming television series, which would offer an opportunity for steady work. Hoping to jump-start his career, Rock left the William Morris Agency in search of a new agent. However, leaving the agency only made matters worse. “After I left,” Rock told Entertainment Weekly, “no one wanted me. Literally every agent in town turned me down.”

Undaunted by this rejection, Rock decided to work harder to become a better comic and actor. He carefully studied the comedic techniques of some of his heroes such as Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, and Don Rickles and looked for ways to improve his performance. In 1996 he taped Bring the Pain, a comedy special for HBO. The show was a smash hit, earned Rock two Emmy Awards, and rekindled his career. HBO signed him to host his own show, and Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect hired him to cover the 1996 presidential elections. He also landed a role in the film Sgt. Bilko (1996). At the end of 1996, Rock married public relations executive Malaak Compton. In an interview with Time, Rock credited his career resurgence to the purchase of a new home: “People ask me how the change in my career came about…. When I bought a new house I needed more money. So I had to work twice as hard. And in the work on the road, I got better.”

During 1997 Rock's star continued to rise. He released the comedy album Roll with the New and the book Rock This!, appeared with Chris Farley in the film Beverly Hills Ninja, and hosted the MTV Video Music Awards. Rock also appeared in commercials for Nike, where he was featured as the voice of the puppet Li'l Penny, and for 1-800-Collect. In 1998 he landed roles in the films Lethal Weapon 4 and Doctor Dolittle, where he delighted audiences as the voice of a guinea pig. That same year he coproduced the sitcom The Hughleys, which told the story of a successful African-American family and their struggle to adjust to life in an all-white suburb. The show, which aired on ABC, received generally favorable reviews.

His success continued in 1999, when he appeared in his third special for HBO, Bigger & Blacker. The special was followed by a CD that was recorded in the middle of a twenty-eight-city tour of the United States. MTV invited Rock to host the 1999 Video Music Awards, and he used his biting humor to poke fun at many of the big winners of the night. He topped his previous success with the awards show by again making it one of the highest rated shows in cable history. All of this was capped with an appearance in the movie Dogma, in which Rock played the thirteenth apostle, who was supposedly left out of the Bible because he was black. In this highly controversial film, Rock reveals that Jesus was black. The movie suffered widespread criticism from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

At a Glance …

Born Christopher Julius Rock III on February 7, 1966, in Georgetown, SC; son of Julius and Rose; married Malaak Compton, 1996; children: Lola Simone and Zahra Savannah.

Career: Comedian, actor, and writer, 1980s—; producer and director, 2000—. Saturday Night Live, cast member, 1990-93; In Living Color, cast member, 1993-94; hosted the MTV Video Music Awards, 1997, 1999; television sitcom The Hughleys, coproducer, 1998; hosted the Academy Awards, 2005; Everybody Hates Chris, cocreator, executive producer and narrator, 2005—; I Think I Love My Wife, actor, director, and producer, 2007; Cheese and Crackers: The Best Bits, producer, 2007.

Selected awards: CableAce Award, 1995, 1997; Emmy Award, 1997, 1999; Grammy awards for best spoken album, 1998, 2000, for best comedy albun, 2006; Blockbuster Entertainment Award, 1999; American Comedy Award, 2000; ShoWest Awards, Comedy Star of the Year, 2001; presented star on Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2003; Black Entertainment Television Comedy Awards, 2005; Kid's Choice Awards, USA, 2006.

Addresses: Web—http://www.chrisrock.com.

Gained Experience Directing and Producing

Besides his work as an actor and working on television specials, he was involved in putting together a humor magazine at Howard University, and in 2001 he released the directorial effort Pootie Tang, with Gw- yneth Paltrow and Lance Crouther. That year he also served as the executive producer of Down to Earth and was named comedy star of the year at the ShoWest Awards.

By 2005 Rock was still busy with film projects that included 2003's Head of State (which he directed) and 2005's summer duo The Longest Yard and Madagascar. He hosted the Academy Awards that spring and was the cocreator and executive producer of UPN's new hit comedy series Everybody Hates Chris, which was based on his life growing up in Brooklyn.

Everybody Hates Chris was one of UPN's highest rated shows in 2006 and won a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Rock spent most of 2006 working on upcoming film projects and material for his 2007-08 comedy tour, which included both domestic and international venues.

Rock debuted I Think I Love My Wife in 2007, a remake of the 1972 French film L'Amour l'après-midi ( Chloe in the Afternoon), about a man experiencing a marital and romantic crisis. Shortly before the film's debut, a number of tabloid media outlets reported that Rock and his wife, Malaak Compton-Rock, were experiencing marital problems and that Rock may have filed for divorce. In an interview with People, Rock denied rumors of his imminent divorce and claimed that he and his wife of more than ten years were not considering separation. Rock's film met with mixed reviews and was generally considered an ambitious project that did not meet up to the comedic standards of some of his earlier works.

In 2007 Rock released the comedy CD Cheese and Crackers: The Best Bits, which was marketed as a greatest-hits compilation of Rock's stand-up comedy routines. Rock's 2007-08 comedy tour included appearances at a number of U.S. and United Kingdom venues, and he performed at the 2007 New Years Eve concert at New York's Madison Square Garden. Rock also found time for a number of social service activities, participating in the Live Earth Event in the United Kingdom in June of 2007 and the 2007 Youth Activism Discussion and Concert, hosted by MTV, which featured an appearance by former president Bill Clinton (1946—).

Despite his remarkable success, Rock remains modest. “It's a good time to be a young, black comedian,” he told Time. “Of course, that's easy for me to say because I'm one of the people working…. No matter how good you are, you have to work hard—or you'll only be as funny as the next guy.”

Selected works

Books

Rock This!, Hyperion Books, 1997.

Films

Sgt. Bilko, 1996.

Beverly Hills Ninia, 1997.

Doctor Dolittle, 1998.

Lethal Weapon 4, 1998.

Dogma, 1999.

Nurse Betty, 2000.

Down to Earth, 2001.

Artificial Intelligence: AI, 2001.

Pootie Tang, 2001.

Osmosis Jones, 2001.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, 2001.

Bad Company, 2002.

Head of State, 2003.

Paparazzi, 2004.

The Longest Yard, 2005.

Madagascar, 2005.

I Think I Love My Wife, 2007.

Bee Movie, 2007.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, 2008.

Television

Uptown Comedy Express, 1987.

Saturday Night Live, 1990-93.

In Living Color, 1993-94.

The Moxy Show, 1995.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1996.

Bring the Pain, 1996.

Martin, 1996.

Homicide: Life on the Street, 1996.

King of the Hill, 1998.

Chris Rock: Bigger ' Blacker, 1999.

Chris Rock: Never Scared, 2004.

Everybody Hates Chris, 2005—.

Recordings

Born Suspect, 1991.

Roll with the New, 1997.

Bigger ' Blacker, 1999.

Never Scared, 2004.

Cheese and Crackers, 2007.

Sources

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, May 21, 1999.

Essence, December 2000; December 2005.

Jet, October 10, 2005.

New York Times, May 27, 2005; March 16, 2007; July 8, 2007.

People, March 2007.

Time, July 20, 1998.

Variety, November 21, 2005.

Online

Associated Press, “‘Crash,’ Foxx, Win NAACP Image Awards,” MSNBC Online,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11582061/ (accessed January 29, 2008).

"Chris Rock,” IMDb.com,

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001674/

(accessed January 29, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from “Meet Mr. Rock” on the Up Close Internet chat on June 6, 1996.

—Ann M. Peters, David G. Oblender, and Micah L. Issitt

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Rock, Chris 1967(?)–

Chris Rock 1967(?)

Comedian, actor

At a Glance

Honed Comedic Skills on SNL

Brand of Humor Drew Criticism

Sources

Chris Rock has been a stand-up comic in local New York comedy clubs since he was a teenager. But, with the signing of a five-year contract as a featured player on NBCs Saturday Night Live (SNL) in the fall of 1990 and a starring role in Mario Van Peebless critically acclaimed crime drama New Jack City, Chris Rock is not just another funny guy hitting the comedy circuit. As Alan Carter wrote in a 1991 Essence article, Rock is what the business likes to call hot. His portrayal of Pookie, the crack addict turned informer in New Jack City, and his appearances on Saturday Night Live, Comic Strip Live, Uptown Comedy Express, and Showtime at the Apollo have earned him national recognition and a chance to bring his urban, streetwise humor to a larger audience.

Rock grew up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The eldest of six children, he dropped out of school (later earning an equivalency diploma) and went to work in various jobs around the city. His humorsharp, political, and streetwisecracked up his co-workers, and he took the act to the local comedy club circuit. After seeing Rocks performance at Manhattans Comic Strip Club in 1986, fellow actor-comedian Eddie Murphy found the young comedian a spot on his HBO special, Uptown Comedy Express, and a small role in Beverly Hills Cop II. Rocks portrayal of a rib joint customer two years later in Im Gonna Git You Sucka, a parody of a 1970s black exploitation film, led to an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, which, in turn, attracted the attention of Saturday Night Lives executive producer, Lome Michaels.

After a mass audition in Chicago in 1990, Michaelsthe same SNL producer who hired the shows mythic original cast in 1975hired Rock as a featured player for the late-night show. Saturday Night Live executives deny that Rock was hired as a response to the popularity of the Fox networks hipper (and blacker) show, In Living Color, although he has brought to the show a sharp-edged humor that is closer to the streets. Soon after the announcement was made that Rock had joined the SNL cast, Chris Smith, a New York magazine columnist, predicted that Rock, the first black hired by SNL since 1985, would inject some urban life into a program dominated by church ladies and subterranean heavy-metal heads.

Signing the five-year contract with Saturday Night Live in

At a Glance

Born c. 1967 in Brooklyn, NY; son of Julius (a truckdriver) and Rose (a schoolteacher).

Stand-up comedian, 1984; has appeared in such comedy productions as Comic Strip Live, Uptown Comedy Express, and Showtime at the Apollo; featured performer on Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1990. Actor in films, including Beverly Hills Cop II,1987, Im Gonna Git You Sucka,1988, New Jack City,1991, and Boomerang,1992.

Addresses: Home Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY. Office c/o Saturday Night Live, NBC, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

October of 1990 was a dream come true for Rock. As a child he remembered watching a rerun episode with Garrett Morris, a SNL cast member until 1980. I decided right then, Rock remembered in a 1991 People article, that I wanted to be the black guy on Saturday Night Live. Being the black guy, however, can prove difficult. For his first year on the show, Rock remained predominantly a background figure and had the critics wondering whether SNL could really utilize him.

Honed Comedic Skills on SNL

Rocks humor, which works so brilliantly on the stand-up stage, was difficult to develop on a show like SNL. For one thing, there are no black writers on the program. Rocks mentor, Eddie Murphy, who at 19 began as a featured player with the show, stepped into the spotlight when he finally connected with two white writers who tailored material to his talent. The most recent black cast member before Rock, Damon Wayans, wasnt so lucky; he only lasted on the show for one season (but has come to enjoy great success with In Living Color). Rock, however, managed to pull himself out of the first-year slump. He began writing some of his own skits, working more closely with SNL writers, and taking on more prominent roles. (One of his best-known roles is that of the militant talk show host Nat X.)

A slow start at Saturday Night Live is not unusual, however. Rock was hired as a featured player rather than as a full-fledged repertory performer. Current SNL players Kevin Nealon and Mike Myers, as well as Eddie Murphy, were all featured performers on the show before stepping up to become front-line players. It takes a year before most [performers] become familiar enough with how the show works, said producer Michaels in a 1991 Los Angeles Times article. I try to make that transition as easy as possible. I want them to feel that the audition is the stressful part, that once theyve got the job they dont need to explode onto the screen and that its going to take time. I dont want them to feel as if they have to accomplish everything in six months.

Brand of Humor Drew Criticism

Joining the cast of SNL has also forced Rock to tone down some of his more controversial material. Although Rock is often compared to Eddie Murphy, his humor is more political than Murphys and, over the years, has raised many eyebrows. During one stand-up routine, Rock shocked an audience with his harsh criticisms of then-Washington D.C. mayor, Marion Barry. After appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show in late 1987, Rock was reprimanded by both Hall and director Spike Lee for jokes that they considered inappropriate for television. His act had gone over well with the audience, but, as David Mills wrote in the Washington Post, Rock told the kind of jokes you dont hear except on inner-city playgrounds. In 1990, after Rock appeared again on the late-night talk show, host Hall ended up apologizing on the air for a joke Rock had made about date rape, a joke that provoked criticism from the editors of Ms. magazine and women around the country.

Despite controversy early in his career, Rocks act is generally well received. In a 1991 Washington Post review of Rocks act at the Comedy Cafe in Washington, D.C., Mills admitted that there is some real raunch late in the act. But he doesnt rely on the dirty stuff. Mills called Rocks act hilarious and daring a free-wheeling discourse about hair weaves, working at McDonalds, abortion rights, white people on Soul Train, Muslims and pork, sexual relationships, his cheap father. Even his preference in womens panties.

Although best known for his comedy, Rock has been making a name for himself as a respectable actor. Besides roles in Murphys Beverly Hills Cop II and Im Gonna Git You Sucka, Rock has received critical accolades for his performance in New Jack City, a film about a team of cops who bring down a Harlem drug lord. Directed by Mario Van Peebles, the films cast includes Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Judd Nelson, and Rock as Pookie, a young black man trapped in a world of drugs and violence. To prepare for the role, Rock spent several days on the streets with a Brooklyn crackhead.

Rock has even more exciting plans for the future. He recorded a comedy album, Born Suspect, which features a rap song about a rib salesman and jokes on tinted contact lenses (from a black perspective). Hes also planning for another movie with In Living Colors Keenan Ivory Wayans (brother of Damon) and hopes to someday produce his own television show.

Sources

Detroit Free Press, July 19, 1991.

Essence, April 1991.

Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1990; March 10, 1991.

New York, October 1990.

People, March 25, 1991; September 9, 1991.

Washington Post, September 29, 1990; March 10, 1991.

Ann M. Peters

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"Rock, Chris 1967(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rock-chris-1967

Rock, Chris 1967(?)–

Chris Rock 1967(?)

Comedian, actor

At a Glance

Sources

Chris Rock has worked as a standup comic in local New York comedy clubs since he was a teenager. It was in these clubs that he learned how to make people laugh, a skill that Rock has developed into a highly successful career. With a hip talk show on HBO, an enormously popular appearance as host of the MTV Video Music Awards, a comedy album, and numerous film appearances, Rock is definitely on a roll.

Rock was born in 1967 and grew up in the tough Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The eldest of six children, he dropped out of school-he later obtained a general equivalency diploma-and went to work as busboy, a mental hospital orderly, and a laborer unloading trucks for the New York Daily News, where his father was employed. Rocks humor--sharp, political, and streetwise-cracked up his co-workers, and he took the act to the local comedy club circuit. After viewing Rocks performance at Manhattans Comic Strip Club in 1986, actor-comedian Eddie Murphy found the young comedian a spot on his HBO special, Uptown Comedy Express, and gave him a small role in Beverly Hills Cop II. Rocks portrayal of a rib joint customer two years later in Im Gonna Git You Sucka, a parody of a 1970s blackexploitation film, led to appearances on The Arsenic Hall Show. Rock soon attracted the attention of Saturday Night Lives executive producer, Lome Michaels, who asked him to audition for the show.

After a mass audition in Chicago in 1990, Michaels hired Rock as a featured player for the late-night show. Although he created such memorable characters as the militant talk-show host Nat X, Rock was dissatisfied with Saturday Night Live and left the show in 1993. In a 1996 Internet chat on Up Close, he remarked that during his stint with Saturday Night Live he felt like the adopted [black] kid with great white parents. In 1994, Rock joined the cast of the predominantly black sketch show In Living Color, but the show was canceled that same year.

In addition to his work on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color, Rock developed a career as a film actor. In 1991, he received critical accolades for his performance in New Jack City, a film about a team of cops who bring down a Harlem drug lord. Directed by Mario Van Peebles, the films cast included Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Judd Nelson, and Rock as Pookie, a young African American man trapped in a world of drugs and violence. To prepare for the role, Rock spent several days on the streets with a

At a Glance

Born c. 1967 in Brooklyn, NY, son of Julius (a truckdriver) and Rose (a schoolteacher); married Malaak Compton, (a public relations coordinator), 1996.

Career: Comedian, actor; cast member on Saturday Night Live, 199093, and In living Color, 199394; host, The Chris Rock Show, HBO, 1996-. hosted the MTV Music Video Awards, 1997; co-produced the tv sitcom The Houghleys, 1998; appeared in the films Beverly Hills Cop II, 1987; Im Conna Git You Sucka, 1988; New Jack City, 1991; Boomerang, 1992; CB4, 1993; Panther, 1995; Sgt. Bilko, 1996; Beverly Hills Ninja, 1997; lethal Weapon 4, 1998; Doctor Dolittle, 1998; Dogma, 1999; author of Rock This!, 1997.

Awards: CableAce Award for Chris Rock: Big Ass Jokes, 1995; Emmy Award for Bring the Pain, 1997.

Addresses: Home-Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY. Agent- Michael Rotenberg, 3 Arts Entertainment, 9460 Wilshire Blvd., 7th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Brooklyn drug addict. The following year, he played the role of Bony T in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang. In 1993 Rock also starred as Albert in the rap parody CB4, a film which he wrote and co-produced.

During the mid-1990s, Rocks career appeared to stall. Although he did several comedy specials for HBO and had a role in the 1995 film Panther, he had no offers to do an upcomingtelevision series, which would offer an opportunity for steady work. Hoping to jump start his career, Rock left the William Morris Agency in search of a new agent. Leaving the William Morris Agency only made matters worse. After I left, Rock told Entertainment Weekly, no one wanted me. Literally every agent in town turned me down.

Undaunted by this rejection, Rock decided to work harder to become a better comic and actor. He carefully studied the comedic techniques of some of his heroes such as Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, and Don Rickles and looked for ways to improve his performance. In 1996, Rock taped a comedy special for HBO entitled Bring the Pain. The show was a smash hit, earned Rock two Emmy awards and rekindled his career. HBO signed him to host his own show and Comedy Centrals Politically Incorrect hired him to cover the 1996 presidential elections. He also landed a role in the film Sgt. Bilko. At the end of 1996, Rock married public relations executive Malaak Compton. In an interview with Time, Rock credited his career resurgence to the purchase of a new home, People ask me how the change in my career came aboutWhen I bought a new house I needed more money. So I had to work twice as hard. And in the work on the road, I got better.

During 1997, Rocks star continued to rise. He releasedthe comedy album Roll with theNew and a book entitled Rock This!, appeared with the late Chris Farley in the film Beverly Hills Ninja, and hosted the MTV Music Video Awards. Rock also appeared in commercials for Nike, where he was featured as the voice of the puppet Lil Penny, and 1800 Collect. In 1998, Rock landed roles in the films Lethal Weapon 4 and Doctor Dolittle, where he delighted audiences as the voice of a guinea pig. That same year he co-produced the sitcom The Hughleys, which told the story of a successful African American family and their struggle to adjust to life in an all-white suburb. The show, which aired on ABC, received generally favorable reviews.

Rock appeared in the highly controversial 1999 film Dogma. This film featured Rock as Jesus 13th apostle, Rufus, who is excluded from biblical history because he revealed that Jesus was an African American. Dogma was criticized as blasphemous and sacrilegious by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Although he has achieved remarkable success, Rock remained modest. Its a good time to be a young, black comedian, he told Time, Of course, thats easy for me to say because Im one of the people working. No matter how good you are, you have to work hard-or you 11 only be as funny as the next guy.

Sources

Books

Rooney, Terrie M., ed. Newsmakers 98, Gale, 1999.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, May 21, 1999, pp. 5051.

Time, July 20, 1998, pp. 5659.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the Meet Mr. Rock Up Close Internet chat on June 6, 1996.

Ann M. Peters and David G. Oblender

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
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"Rock, Chris 1967(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Rock, Chris 1967(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rock-chris-1967-0

"Rock, Chris 1967(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rock-chris-1967-0