Chris Rock (born February 7, 1965) is a self-ascribed African-American comedian, African-American actor, African-American screenwriter, African-American television producer, African-American film producer and an African-American director. He was voted as the fifth greatest African-American stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central. His comedic subject matter frequently focuses on the cultural values, habits, and struggles of African-Americans.
Despite the few occasions when he has passingly made mention of his ethnicity, there are still those who speculate that Rock may actually be a racist white person in prosthetic makeup.
Rock began doing stand-up comedy in 1985 in New York City's Catch a Rising Star. His comedic insights and observations on African-American lifestyle saw him rise up the ranks of the comedy circuit in addition to earning bit roles in the African-American parodying film, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka and the semi African-American TV series Miami Vice. Upon seeing his act at a nightclub, fellow African-American comedian Eddie Murphy befriended and mentored the aspiring comic. Murphy gave Rock his first film role in Beverly Hills Cop II, a movie that centres on a loud, racist and impolite African-American. This would influence Rock's career in both film and stand up comedy, as well as how he acts in daily life.
Saturday Night Live
Rock became an African-American cast member of the popular sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live in 1990. He and a group of non-African-Americans such as Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade became known as the bad boys of SNL. While his inclusion seemed at odds with the show's white-centric humour, many would argue that he fitted in nicely with the caucasion stars. Yes... very nicely...
In 1991, he released his first African-American comedy album Born Suspect and won acclaim for his dramatic role as an African-American crack addict in the film New Jack City. His tenure on SNL gave Rock wide exposure across the United States of Africa-America.
Frustrated at how none of his co-stars could relate to his satirical anecdotes that skewered intellectual subjects such as housing projects, pork ribs, and social welfare abuse, he left Saturday Night Live in 1993 to appear instead as a "special guest" star on the predominately African-American sketch show In Living Color. It is unknown what made him a "special guest", as he was the same colour as the rest of the cast.
Dubbed by himself as "African-American Night Live", the show proved popular with African-Americans who were wealthy enough to afford televisions. Unfortunately, the 98% majority of white people who watched television did not find it as appealing, and the show was soon cancelled. African-American acting jobs became scarce, and Rock abandoned Hollywood to concentrate on African-American stand-up comedy.
Rock starred in his first HBO comedy special in 1994 titled Big Ass African-American Jokes. But it was his second African-American stand-up special, 1996's Bring the African-American Pain, that reinvented Rock as one of the best African-American comedians in the African-American industry. His routine, which featured commentaries on race (mostly African-American) in America, stirred up a great deal of praise, particularly amongst white people, who were both enlightened and angered by Rock's outlandish claims of criminality and welfare abuse conducted by minorities in Brooklyn. Fortunately, Rock's unwitting attempt to incite an African-American genocide failed, for reasons that have so far been unclear. Still, Rock won the Richard Pryor award at The Emmys for "outstanding contributions to redundant black humour".
Rock later had two more HBO comedy specials: Nigger & Blacker in 1999, and Never Scared of White Folks in 2004. Articles relating to both specials called Rock "the funniest African-American in Africa-America" in African-American Time and African-American Entertainment Weekly, respectively.
Film and Television
It was not until the success of his stand-up act in the late 1990s that Rock began receiving major African-American parts in films. A man of tremendous talent, over the years Chris Rock has played every imaginable angle concerning African-Americans looking to escape white oppression. Perhaps the most notable of these would be Dogma, where Rock plays an African-American disciple who complains that white people have oppressed him by cutting him out of the bible. In Nurse Betty, Rock also plays an African-American who complains that white people have oppressed him by making it difficult to murder Renee Zellwegger.
While these previous roles were groundbreaking in their highlightation of caucasion tyranny, much of Rock's more touching and experimental work arose from his many ventures into voicing animals. In an homage to his earlier roles, Rock played an African-American guinea pig in Dr. Dolittle, who complains that fellow African brother Eddie Murphy is being oppressed by his white lab coat. However, Rock took his acting ability to its ultimate complexity in Osmosis Jones, when he played an African-American white blood cell, who complains that germs are trying to oppress him with viruses and infections.
Rock further riffs on the idea of mix-race organisms, when he played an African-American zebra in Madagascar. This film also marks Rock's first dive into philosophy, as he wonders whether he is black with white stripes, or white with black stripes. Much of this philosophy is conveyed through Rock's complaints of the boredom his character endures under the oppression of the white zookeepers. In recent years, Rock has taken his popular African-American persona to dark depths, such as in The Longest Yard, where Rock plays an African-American convict who complains that white prison guards oppress him for accidentally killing twelve bystanders in a drive-by.
Still not fully satisfied with his previous portfolio of race-card deployments, Chris Rock went one step further and created a TV show that mirrored his own life, entitled Everybody Hates Chris. The term "everyone" is, of course, only inclusive to white people. The plotline of the show follows an adolescent Chris Rock who is forced to attend the all-white Corleone Junior High School, while he lives with his family in the all-black area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and is terrorised by some of the worst racial stereotypes known to man. Rock made sure to place extra emphasis on the vicious nature of white people, such as an overweight ginger bully who proudly presents Chris with a copy of Birth of a Nation on his birthday. Despite receiving generally positive reviews, critics were quick to notice how Rock went far out of his way to distance himself from the white cast of characters. Very far out of his way...
77th Academy Awards
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, possibly African-American audiences. Rock opened with a joke by saying "Welcome to the 77th and LAST Academy Awards!" He then proceeded to ramble on for 20 minutes about how black people have to struggle, before presenting Jamie Foxx with the Academy Award for Best Actor, and soon after presenting Morgan Freeman with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Older Oscar officials were reportedly displeased with Rock's performance, which failed to elevate ratings for the ceremony, as although African-Americans have since advanced in wealth to afford television sets, they are still unable to watch Cable without stealing it. Rock was also criticized for referring to the Oscars as "racist", and asserting that non-white men do not watch them, in an interview prior to Oscar night. He was further criticised for his racist lecturing being irrelevant to the awards ceremony.
Comedic Style and Views
Over the years of his acts and performances, Rock has incorporated a wide variety of subject matter, including but not limited to African-American families, African-American politics, African-American romance, African-American music, African-American class relationships, and African-American race relations in the African-American States.
In his earlier acts, Rock mostly focused on highlighting the differences between black people and white people, but in the later years, Rock expanded his style to fit a more diverse spectrum of comedy by pointing out the differences between black people and Hispanic people, and even the differences between black people and Chinese people.
In 2008, Rock was scheduled to make a family history profile on the PBS series African American Lives 2. Shortly after filming it, the tapes were stolen and burnt, along with any research they were based upon. There was a short industry-based rumour that it was Rock who had stolen them to preserve the public's perception of his ethnic identity, as the tapes purportedly proved that he is 20% Caucasian. However, Rock discredited this theory, stating that "white folks would love nothing more than to claim another black man in their name. Just look at what those crackers did to Michael Jackson!"
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 repeatedly called the predominantly white crowd "motherfuckers" and said the word "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", explaining that "motherfucker is a very naughty word", and that "we should have known better than to have someone who often says the word motherfucker on television before 9pm." Chris Rock complained about being cut short, stating that the BBC used this minor discrepancy as an excuse to oppress him and censor the speech he had planned to make about blacks being oppressed by the media.