Chris Rock is an American standup comedian, actor, director, producer, singer, and writer. He started his professional career as a standup comedian at age of 19, by performing in numerous small nightclubs in New York City. Chris caught the eye of the legendary American comedian and actor, Eddie Murphy while he was presenting his act at a nightspot. Murphy offering Rock his debut movie role in the movie ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’. However, he received his first major break when he was picked up as a member of the cast for comedy series, ‘Saturday Night Live’. His career began to mirror versatility as he took to expanding his repertoire by penning the script for the film CB4, and featuring in his opening HBO series, Big Ass Jokes. He received much publicity for his role as a commentator for Comedy Central's talk show ‘Politically Incorrect’ during the 1996 Presidential elections. His popularity and fame as an extraordinary standup performer peaked following appearances in a string of successful HBO comedy specials. Shortly after, his reputation began to fade and in order to revive his flagging career went back to delivering acts in small nightclubs covering controversial subjects such as race relations. He came back with a bang by bagging significant roles in TV serials and movies.
Childhood and Early Life
Chris Rock was born on 7 February 1965, in Andrews Town of South Carolina and soon after his family relocated to Brooklyn in New York City. The family again shifted to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a working class locality in Brooklyn and settled in that neighborhood.
His father, Christopher Julius Rock II, worked as a newspaper deliverer and truck driver while his mother, Rose Rock, was employed as a teacher in a school for the mentally retarded. Chris Rock was the eldest of all the children born to his parents and had three younger brothers, Jordan, Kenny, and Tony.
All his three brothers followed him to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. His father succumbed to ulcer in 1988. He also had an older stepbrother, Charles who passed away in 2006 following an extended struggle with dipsomania.
Chris has admitted that Allen Rock, his paternal grandfather, a parson by profession had a great influence on his comedy style. His grandfather moved to New York City from South Carolina in the 40s, working as a preacher and cabbie.
Since Brooklyn’s neighborhoods were dominated by white people who made up the bulk of the populace, Chris Rock had to put up with scathing racial discrimination because of his skin color. He remembers going to James Madison High School in a separate bus that exclusively ferried black students.
He was regularly beaten up and persecuted by white students and the oppression intensified over the years. Eventually, he stopped attending high school for good but nevertheless he received a GED (general education diploma) certification. His bitter experience with racism and bigotry during his school years had a sweeping influence on his career as a comedian.
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Career as a Standup Comedian
After dropping out of school, Chris Rock did odd jobs at several fast-food joints and cafeterias to make ends meet. He laid the foundations of his career as a standup comedian in 1984 by performing in the nightclubs and comedy clubs of New York City, including at ‘Catch a Rising Star’.
Many celebrated humorists and satirists, including the likes of Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld had honed their skills at ‘Catch a Rising Star’. For a brief period, Chris Rock cleaned tables at the oldest comedy club of NYC, ‘The Comic Strip Live’ in order to get some extra onstage time.
Rock, slowly and gradually inched his way upwards, through the rank and file of New York City’s comedic industry. His initial success and fame helped him to land small parts in movies including ‘Krush Grove’, ‘Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen’ and ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka’ as well as TV serials, like ‘Miami Vice’ and ‘Uptown Comedy Express’.
Eddie Murphy, acclaimed comedian and actor spotted Chris while he was performing at ‘The Comic Strip’. Impressed by his performance, Murphy offered him the part of ‘playboy mansion valet’ in the 1987 film ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’ which was his debut movie role.
In 1990, he was selected to host ‘Saturday Night Live’ (SNL) the hugely popular comedy series that put him on par with other newly recruited cast members like Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Chris Farley. In the following year, he came up with his first comedy record titled ‘Born Suspect’.
He hosted a total of 59 episodes of ‘Saturday Night Live’ from 1990-93 and in these three years, he earned nationwide fame and recognition as a comedian. His striking and evocative portrayal of ‘Pookie’ a cocaine addict in the movie, ‘New Jack City’ was lauded by his fans and film critics.
Chris was quietly planning to quit SNL following the end of the 1992-93 Season but he was laid off and dropped unceremoniously much before the season came to an end.
He was featured as a guest actor in a total of 6 episodes in the 1993-94 Season of the comedy series; ‘In Living Color’ but the serial’s broadcasting was discontinued shortly after. In 1993, he scripted and co-produced the comedy film, ‘CB4’ as well as played a double role in the movie.
’CB4’ which was made on a shoestring budget was a modest blockbuster, earning revenues nearly three times the movie budgent. Chris went on to appear in a string of comedy specials endorsed by HBO from 1994 to 2008 that brought him unprecedented success and made him a household name in the entertainment industry.
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He first appeared in the HBO-sponsored comedy special, ‘Big Ass Jokes’ in 1994 followed by the special ‘Bring the Pain’ in 1996. His poignant performance in ‘Bring the Pain’ merited him two Emmy awards and firmly established him as one of the most accomplished satirists in the US comedic circuit.
His popularity received a massive boost when he was chosen as an commentator for the late-night political talk-show, ‘Politically Incorrect’, to review the 1996 Presidential elections. He lent his voice to a puppet named ‘Lil Penny’ that featured in advertisements for Nike shoes from 1994 to `1998.
Chris Rock starred in two Time Warner’s HBO comedy specials, ‘Bigger & Blacker’ and ‘Never Scared’ in 1994 and 2004 respectively. His presentations in the comic specials were highly eulogized by mainstream American periodicals. He entrenched his credentials as a superlative comedian by hosting 37 episodes of ‘The Chris Rock Show’ from 1997-2000.
Chris had written the script for the episodes of ‘The Chris Rock Show’ as well as created and executive-produced the series. He interviewed eminent personalities in the episodes of the show, including popular statesmen, politicians, and film stars. He picked up a total of 15 nominations and three Emmy Awards for the program.
He released album formats of his acclaimed comedy specials, ‘Bigger & Blacker’, ‘Never Scared’, and ‘Roll with the New’ and also released a book, ‘Rock This’ detailing his comedic performances. ‘Kill the Messenger’ his fifth and last comedy special for which he again won an Emmy, was broadcasted on 27 September 2008.
Career as an Actor
Chris Rock’s stupendous success as a standup comedian towards the end of the 1990s helped him to bag crucial roles in feature films, many of which went on to become blockbusters. Initially, he fulfilled supporting parts in movies like ‘Beverly Hills Ninja’ (1997), ‘Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), ‘Nurse Betty’ (2000), Sgt Bilko (1996) and ‘The Immortals’ (1995).
Chris made his mark on the big screen by doing full justice to roles in the movies, ‘The Longest Yard’ (2005), ‘I Think I Love My Wife’ (2007), ‘Death at a Funeral’ (2010), ‘Grown Ups’ (2010), and ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ (2012).
Chricj Rock also went behind-the-scenes, demonstrating his skills as a scriptwriter, director, and voiceover actor. He has shared screen space with several celebrated Hollywood actors and actresses including but not limited to Anthony Hopkins, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Renee Zellweger, and Salma Hayek.
Career as a Stage Actor
Rock made his Broadway debut in 2011, performing standup acts in the play, ‘The Motherfucker with the Hat’ that won him a Drama League Award nomination.
Career as a Singer
Chris Rock has recorded and released four albums in his career so far including ‘Born Suspect’ (1991), ‘Roll with the New’ (1997), ‘Bigger & Blacker’ (1999), and ‘Never Scared’ (2005). He also a few created music videos of some songs included in the abovementioned albums. Additionally, he appeared as a cameo in music footages of other artistes.
Career as a Television Producer
Chris Rock was the chronicler and executive producer of the comedy serial, ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ that broadly depicted his harrowing school days. The serial broadcasted by UPN Television from 2005 to 2009 picked up rare reviews and several prestigious nominations including Emmy Awards, People’s Choice Award, and Golden Globe.
Everybody Hates Chris’ was a parodied take of the popular sitcom series, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’.
Academy Awards Controversy
Rock emceed the 77th and 88th Academy Awards ceremonies in 2005 and 2015 respectively and on both occasions garnered criticism for his controversial comments and diatribes. During the 77th Academy Awards event, he lampooned budding and veteran actors like Jude Law, Tom Cruise, and Denzel Washington.
Chris Rock married the executive director of a not-for-profit salon, Malaak Compton, in 1996 and split up in 2016. The couple have two daughters Lola and Zahra.