Comedian and actor Chris Rock was born on February 7, 1965, in Andrews, South Carolina. Rock is the eldest son of Julius Rock, a truck driver, and Rose Rock, a teacher. When Rock was a toddler, his family relocated to Bedford Stuyvesant, where he spent the remainder of his childhood.
He attended a predominantly white public school and, as a result, was subjected to discrimination at an early age. Rock’s early bouts with racism greatly influenced his comedic material later on in his career.
Rock said of his discovery that he was a funny guy, “I just remember that whenever I got really mad or passionate, like in an argument, people would laugh, and I’d be dead serious,” said Rock. “It would happen a lot. So it was like, ‘Gee, I’ve got something here.’”
At age 18, Rock was discovered by Eddie Murphy at New York’s Comedy Strip. A small role in Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) was Rock’s film debut. Rock also starred in Keenan Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), which exploited racism in a comedic manner.
In 1990, Rock followed the footsteps of his mentor, Murphy, by joining the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL). A year later, he released his first comedy album, Born Suspect. He also undertook the more dramatic role of playing Pookie, a drug-addicted informant, in Mario Van Peebles’ feature New Jack City.
After three seasons on SNL, Rock left to pursue other career opportunities. In 1993, Rock appeared on FOX’s In Living Color for a handful of episodes prior to the show’s cancellation.
1996 marked a turning point in Rock’s career. His talents were recognized by HBO, and the cable network produced a comedy special starring Rock, titled Bring in the Pain. The comedian won two Emmy Awards and was received with critical acclaim.
Rock’s popular stand-up delivery soon was branded by his high-pitched and blunt delivery and his habit of pacing up and down the stage. He attacked subjects many comedians would shy away from — including politics, race and celebrity — with fearlessness, frankness and honesty. His routines had an irony of being blunt and even profane, but with the feel of a sermon.
Also in 1996, Rock married Malaak Compton, a public relations executive. They have two daughters together: Lola Simone and Zahra Savannah. In 1997, Rock began hosting his own television show on the HBO Network, The Chris Rock Show, which earned him two CableACE awards.
During this high point in his career, Rock also appeared in Sgt. Bilko, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Lethal Weapon 4. Other films include Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Bad Company, co-starring Anthony Hopkins, and the voice of Marty in DreamWorks’ Madagascar.
Rock also received two Grammy Awards for his spoken comedy albums Roll With the New (1997) and Bigger and Blacker (1999). In 2003, he received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and that same year, was voted the funniest person in America by Entertainment Weekly. In 2004, he was chosen as #5 in Comedy Central’s “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.”
Rock has the rare distinction of being in two movies that opened on the same day in the U.S. — The Longest Yard (2005) and Madagascar (2005). Both of them stayed in the two top spots at the box office the following weeks, knocking down the last installment of the Star Wars Saga, and becoming members of the 100 million dollar club.
Also in 2005, Rock debuted a sitcom on The CW Television Network called Everybody Hates Chris, a spoof on the perennially popular Everybody Loves Raymond. The show was inspired by Rock’s teenage years growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The show quickly became the second most-watched comedy on the network, receiving multiple Golden Globe, People’s Choice and Emmy nominations.
Rock has continued to thrive as a comedian and an actor. He has appeared in such films as Death at a Funeral (2010) with Martin Lawrence and Grown Ups (2010) with Adam Sandler.
In 2012, Rock starred opposite Julie Delpy in the independent romantic comedy 2 Days in New York. In 2014, Rock wrote, directed and starred in Top Five, a film in which he plays a comedic actor struggling with his career and his upcoming wedding to a reality TV star.
With material influenced by black comedy pioneers like Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx — and a machine-gun delivery reminiscent of Sam Kinison and George Carlin — Chris Rock has become one of the most successful and well-known stand-ups in modern comedy — his inimitable style is all his own, earning him the moniker, “funniest man in America.”
Rock’s Notable Quotes:
“A man is basically as faithful as his options.”
“Now that I have children, I realize taking care of my children is more fun than anything in the whole world.”
“Hollywood’s just not funny. You walk around and think ‘Where’s the funny at?’ It’s not there — all there is is a bunch of directors and actors walking around. I like going into a diner and meeting real people. Funny is where the real people are.”
“I love my life, but I don’t think I’m any happier than my younger brother Andre, who drives a garbage truck.”
“Women would rule the world — if only they’d stop bitchin’ about each other.”
“For me, anything goes when I pick up a mic. I’m not trying to hurt people — I try not to get too personal — but I look at myself as a reporter. If you can report on anything that has to do with pop culture, then why can’t I make jokes about it? Yes, it hurts. But I figure that laughter sometimes starts from pain. You might wince, but then I know that I’m doing my job. The only thing I can do wrong is not be funny.”
Chris Rock, we acknowledge your enormous talents and honor your contributions.
*Sources: IMDb, biography.com, patch.com