Comedian Chris Rock has a reputation for being transparent when it comes to talking about his personal life.
So, it’s hardly surprising that Rock seems open to discussing with audiences why, nine years since his last stand-up special, he’s returned to the stage with an entirely new comedy performance.
“That’s what alimony will do to you,” Rock told a sold-out audience Feb. 13 in Durham, N.C., which marked the opening night of his three-month Total Blackout Tour. Rock, who was married for 16 years to Malaak Compton before the union ended in divorce last August, continued: “I didn’t listen. I wasn’t kind. I cheated.”
Rock will bring his new tour, which will be released on Netflix as part of a $40 million two-special package, at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 to the Reno Events Center.
The three-time Grammy Award winner and four-time Emmy Award winner hasn’t released a special since 2008’s “Kill the Messenger.” That special earned Rock an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.
Since then, he’s appeared in numerous movies, including “Death at a Funeral” and “Grown Ups” in 2010; “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” as the voice of Marty in 2012 (Rock also voiced Marty in the first two “Madagascar” films); “Grown Ups 2” in 2013; and “Top Five” in 2014, for which he won a Black Reel Award for Best Screenplay, Adapted or Original.
Rock’s also made cameo roles on television shows including “Louie,” “Tosh.0,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “Empire.” He also hosted the 88th Academy Awards in 2016 (Rock hosted the Academy Awards in 2005, as well).
A thought-provoking approach
One of Rock’s primary strengths as a stand-up comedian is his ability to take serious or controversial subject matters and present it in both a thought-provoking and humorous manner.
In tackling the issue of gun control, Rock once famously quipped: “Gun control? We need bullet control. I think every bullet should cost $5,000. Because if a bullet cost $5,000, we wouldn’t have any innocent bystanders.”
At the North Carolina show, Rock suggested that Barack Obama’s presidency was an aberration and that President Trump’s move to the White House is a return to business as usual in the United States, as the country has a long history of being run by rich, white men. He linked that thought with the campaign to rid schools of bullies.
“We got rid of bullies,” Rock said. “When a real one showed up, we didn’t know what to do.”
In an act of verbal defiance, Rock, 52, said, “I’m not scared. I’m black. The future is always better when you’re black.”
Rock also noted how economic inequality can have the same affect on minorities and poor people, in general, as outright racism can.
“Whole Foods does not say ‘No Blacks Allowed,’” Rock said. “But a $7 orange does. That’s the new Jim Crow.”
Regardless of one’s point of view, there’s no arguing that Rock is one of this country’s premier comedians at social analysis and observations. He’s not afraid to take a stand, either — Rock tweeted an in-march selfie on his Twitter account when he joined the national Women’s March on Jan. 21 from Nashville. He also doesn’t avoid pointing the blame arrow at himself, as he does when talking about his marriage or the details of family court.
That’s the reason that Rock was named the fifth greatest comedian of all-time in a Comedy Central poll, trailing only Richard Pryor (No. 1), George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen.
When Rock was a pebble
Nothing in Rock’s youth indicated he would become the comedic voice of many generations.
Rock was born in 1965 in Andrews, S.C. to a mother who worked as a teacher and social worker for the mentally handicapped and a truck-driver father. A few years later, the family moved to Brooklyn, where Rock was raised with three younger brothers.
He tells of being bullied at primarily white schools, finally dropping out of high school but not before receiving his GED. At 19, Rock began performing comedy at New York City clubs. That earned him bit roles in the films “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and “Beverly Hills Cop II,” as well as the television show, “Miami Vice.”
Rock’s biggest introduction to America’s mainstream audience came in 1990 when he became a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” His fellow cast members included Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade. Rock left the show after the 1992-1993 season and gained national acclaim, winning two Emmy Awards, for his 1996 HBO comedy special, “Bring the Pain.”
His movie roles increased as he had parts in numerous films, including “Beverly Hills Ninja,” “Dogma,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” and “The Longest Yard.” He also hosted and won an Emmy with the late-night talk show, “The Chris Rock Show,” which ran for five seasons from 1997 to 2000 on HBO.
Rock would go on to win Grammy Awards for three comedy albums: “Roll with the New” in 1998, “Bigger & Blacker” in 2000, and “Never Scared” in 2006.
Rock also wrote and narrated the sitcom, “Everybody Hates Chris,” which ran from 2005 to 2009 on the UPN and CW channels. The show was based on Rock’s life child and teenager.
But unlike his television work, stand-up comedy gives Rock license to say and do whatever he wants. His live shows are guaranteed to be uncensored, funny and filled with passion close to Rock’s heart.
“I think my best work is when I’m kind of in charge,” Rock was once quoted saying.
If that’s true — and Rock doesn’t really have any incentive to lie — the shows on this Total Blackout Tour are destined to be hilariously and socially relevant classic Rock.
“I love being famous,” Rock once said. “It’s almost like being white.”