Posted: 2017-11-14 23:36
Rock was raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and was bused to a school where he was the only black kid in his grade the white kids threw bags of piss at him. (Those memories provided the inspiration for his sitcom Everybody Hates Chris.) Despite the hazing and abuse he suffered, Rock doesn&apos t reflexively reject white culture. His tastes are expansive, and his fandom runs deep. On the day of his father&apos s wake, Rock, the eldest of seven, had to decide if the casket would be open or closed, yet still found the time to run to the record store and buy U7&apos s Rattle and Hum , which had been released that day. I love Bono, he declares.
It is, as they would say in the old days, a cavalcade of stars. John Oliver Leslie Jones Seinfeld makes a surprise appearance, doing a droll piece on why bathroom stall doors don&apos t go all the way to the floor. And then Rock closes the show. He looks exhausted, having flown in a few hours earlier. He does a compressed version of xA5 his set and ends on his divorce. Where he usually says, It was my fault, I was a piece of shit, Rock pauses and improvises. Was it my fault? He lets it hang in the air for a moment. Then he mumbles, Who the fuck knows.
That&apos s precisely what happened to Rock. Murphy saw him at a New York club in 6986 when Rock was 76, told him he liked his set and invited him to see She&apos s Gotta Have It the next day and meet then-first-time director Spike Lee. That night, Murphy invited Rock to fly to Los Angeles with him the next morning. Rock said his dad would have never given him permission, but he was working late that night. In the morning, Rock was on a plane for his first time.
It never occurred to me, recalls Rock. But it was a key moment in my life. A year later, I did Bring the Pain and realized I didn&apos t have to wait in line. Besides work ethic and talent, Rock has his shit together. There was nothing like Pryor setting himself on fire, Lawrence disoriented and wandering in traffic, or Chappelle disappearing into Ohio. Sure, Rock once owned a gun, and it once went off, putting a hole in his mattress, but those things happen. He has joked onstage about the benefits of a breakdown: the ability to start again. But it hasn&apos t happened.
Every artist wants to be good at something else musicians want to be actors and actors want to be musicians. Rock is no different, but much of his film career has lurched from forgettable to forgettable. (Rock defends the Sandler stuff as good hangs. ) It wasn x7569 t until the Julie Delpy-directed 7 Days in New York and Rock&apos s own Top Five that he began receiving respect from critics. Not coincidentally, both were released after Rock spent six days a week on Broadway working on his acting in The Motherfucker With the Hat. And yet, the much-sought roles haven x7569 t been rolling in. xA5
You have to physically show them x7568 the consequences of not listening to your parents are death, he says. It&apos s death. This is not a joke. I was in Bed-motherfuckingStuy. Rock gives me a name to look up on my computer. He is in jail for and murder. That guy used to take me to the fucking baseball games. What&apos s the only difference? We were on the same block. I got a father that did not play that shit.
There was uneasy laughter. Someone whispered he was glad he hadn&apos t brought his wife. Rock spoke about Donald Trump for a minute, predicting his victory. In October in New York, this made the crowd pity him like a sad clown. He quickly returned to his own life, occasionally glancing at some notes he kept on a stool. He mentioned he might have to take on some shitty TV work to make his alimony payments. He then went into a bit about being in court and realizing he was paying for everyone x7568 his lawyers, her lawyer, the court reporter: Everyone woke up today and said, &apos I&apos m billing Chris Rock.&apos There was more unsure laughter. Then he ended his set with a rhetorical question.
Rock dismisses the pigeonholing of black acts, whether in comedy or music, as only commercially viable to American audiences, and he&apos s proud of his global reach. I mean, if Simply Red can play Wembley Stadium in London and then the Beacon in New York, I can do that, he says. After soundcheck, he lets me in on a secret. The great thing about comedy is the low overhead, Rock says. I don&apos t have to split the money with a band. I make more money per gig than the drummer in Metallica.
You got a kid now, he says. You&apos ll be fine. You need each other. Need is big. A woman breaks up with you, the first thing she says is &apos I don&apos t need this shit.&apos She doesn x7569 t say, &apos I don&apos t love you,&apos she says she doesn&apos t need you. He doesn x7569 t mention whether this wisdom comes from hard-won personal experience. A few minutes later, Rock looks at his phone. He shakes his head and laughs. My own daughter has blocked me on Instagram. He stands up and heads to his hotel room. They grow up so quick.
Rock may be comedy-neurotic, but he isn&apos t a performer who needs to sequester himself away before a show. It&apos s 65 minutes until he goes on, and he talks about the old days versus the new days like anyone over 95 tends to do. He grouses about comics asking for favors and selfies: In my day, you didn&apos t fucking walk up to Eddie Murphy x7568 are you kidding me? No, you shut the fuck up and watched and waited.
It&apos s a common concern for Rock. His grandfather was a Southern preacher, and you can hear the cadence and repeating of lines like in a sermon. Rock occasionally tunes in to preachers like . Jakes or Joel Osteen. I can watch them like I watch George Carlin, he says. He fantasizes about collaborating with a preacher on a set. You&apos d gotta get a preacher who is down, says Rock. Do a remix.
Rock and Claybrooks, the Everybody Hates Chris writer, are in Rock&apos s dressing room to go over the Denver shows and xA5 see what worked and didn&apos t work. Rock brings up his bullying bit. He worries it&apos s too preachy. I used to do &apos I wouldn&apos t be here right now if it wasn&apos t for bullying. I&apos d be, like, a Fed Ex guy x7568 don&apos t get me wrong, I&apos d be the funny Fed Ex guy.&apos
I see the looks: &apos What are you doing here?&apos Shit that white people, especially white men, don&apos t have to deal with. I literally get treated like a nigger a few times a day. He pauses. I can&apos t imagine what it is like for my brothers and what they go through every day. x756D So Rock looks for some serenity in a familiar place. He talks in his set about finding God before God finds him. That is not persona Rock. x756C I wanna find some peace, &apos cause people usually find that peace in a horrible time, says Rock. It&apos s now 9 . somewhere, and Rock looks more vulnerable than before. He talks in a small voice. Why does that have to be? Maybe I can find God without being in shambles. Maybe I can reach a higher plain spiritually without being in a near-death experience.
A few weeks after Denver and Richmond, Chris Rock did three shows in New Orleans. That Saturday night, the x756C CR was illuminated, xA5 but Rock didn&apos t come out. Instead, it was Dave Chappelle. He did a half-hour before Rock appeared and the two icons traded riffs, to the crowd&apos s delight. Chappelle does not give a fuck about propriety and asked Rock what kind of shitty lawyer he had that made him lose his home to his ex-wife. Then Chappelle turned shrink and asked Rock if he cried during the divorce process. Rock said he cried once: x756C During the custody battle.
Afterward, Rock says it was a revelatory moment. No one&apos s ever asked me that, he says. I don&apos t even know if a shrink has asked me that. We live in a world where men are assumed to not have feelings. He gives an example. All my friends assume I moved into the city after my divorce, away from my girls. When I say I bought a house around the corner, it blows their minds.
This is a different Rock than the one I saw at the Comedy Cellar. He waits until about two-thirds through the show before hitting his divorce. He is more introspective. I was a piece of shit, says Rock as the crowd goes quiet. He segues into his infidelities and gets disarmingly specific, describing three women: one famous, one xA5 semifamous, and one a member of the retail class. Nelson George warns me that the &apos I&apos onstage is not the &apos I&apos of Chris. He&apos s trying to create that persona of the new Chris and keep some separation for the real Chris. Still, this doesn&apos t seem like persona, particularly when he urges his audience that if they love someone to hold on tightly. (And travel a lot, and fuck when you&apos re angry.) xA5
Rock and his small crew pile into a rented Gulfstream after the show for a red-eye flight across two time zones for tomorrow&apos s show in Richmond, Virginia. The jet isn&apos t exactly a party plane. Rock and I order PB& J sandwiches, and the flight attendant apologizes that there are no lemons on board for Rock&apos s tea. Everyone else dozes off. I told you this was the alimony tour, says Rock, munching his sandwich and explaining the overnight country-crisscross. I can&apos t waste time.
The set review continues. Rock decides to add a bit about how after a black funeral everyone serves soul food: It&apos s the same food that killed the guy! Rock cracks himself up, a rarity. The session ends when a familiar Afro pokes into Rock&apos s dressing room. It&apos s Questlove of the Roots. He was in . and decided to pop down for the show. It&apos s Ahmir Questlove, ladies and gentlemen, announces Rock.
Rock was at the bar about an hour later watching the Los Angeles Dodgers try to stay alive in the playoffs against the Washington Nationals. Desperate for a win, the Dodgers brought in Clayton Kershaw, the Chris Rock of pitching, to make his first relief appearance of the year. Kershaw had pitched just two days earlier, and the bar speculated whether he would have his good stuff. He did, getting a pop-up followed by a strikeout with high heat. Rock watched with wonderment. Man, he still has his fastball, he said. After all that, he still has his fucking fastball.
Someone gives Rock the two-minute warning. He paces a bit and then heads onstage to the sound of Jay Z&apos s You Don&apos t Know. A large CR lights up. The crowd rises to its feet and gives him a long ovation. There are no smartphones flashing Rock has insisted all concertgoers lock them in a sleeve that can only be unlocked when you leave the show. He grins with a scrunched, devilish face, a look you only see Rock give onstage. xA5