Black History Month – Day 7 Spotlight: Chris Rock

We wish Chris Rock a Happy Birthday on this 7th day of February.

You know him as the wildly popular comedian, actor, screenwriter, television producer, film producer and director. But not everyone realized that he’s received a few other impressive accolades – In the US, he was voted as the 5th greatest stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central. In the UK, he was also voted as the 9th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups in 2007, and again in the updated 2010 list as the 8th greatest stand-up comic.

So he’s got some international love for sure !

Background

Born in Andrews, South Carolina, but shortly after his birth, his parents moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. A few years later, they relocated and settled in the working-class area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Rock was bused to schools in predominately white neighborhoods of Brooklyn where he endured bullying and beatings from white students. As he got older, the bullying became worse and Rock’s parents pulled him out of James Madison High School. He decided to drop out of high school altogether and later received a GED. Rock worked menial jobs at various fast-food restaurants.

His mother, Rosalie (née Tingman), was a teacher and social worker for the mentally handicapped; his father, Julius Rock, was a former truck driver and newspaper deliveryman.

His younger brothers Tony, Kenny and Jordan are also in the entertainment business. His older half-brother, Charles, died in 2006 due to a long struggle with alcoholism.

Rock has said that he was influenced by the performing style of his paternal grandfather, Allen Rock, a preacher.

Career

Rock began doing stand-up comedy in 1984 in New York City’s Catch a Rising Star. He slowly rose up the ranks of the comedy circuit in addition to earning bit roles in the film I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and the TV series Miami Vice.

Upon seeing his act at a nightclub, Eddie Murphy befriended and mentored the aspiring comic. Murphy gave Rock his first film role in Beverly Hills Cop II.

Saturday Night Live

Rock became a cast member of Saturday Night Live in 1990. He and other new cast members Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade became known as the Bad Boys of SNL.

In 1991, he released his first comedy album Born Suspect and won acclaim for his dramatic role as a crack addict in the film New Jack City. His tenure on SNL gave Rock national exposure.

A frustrated Rock left Saturday Night Live in 1993, appearing instead as a “special guest” star on In Living Color. After In Living Color was canceled Rock decided to concentrate on a film career. He wrote and starred in the mockumentary CB4 but the film was not a success. Acting jobs became scarce, and Rock abandoned Hollywood to concentrate on stand-up comedy.

Rock starred in his first HBO comedy special in 1994 titled Big Ass Jokes. But it was his second stand-up special, 1996’s Bring the Pain, that reinvented Rock as one of the best comedians in the industry.

Rock won two Emmy Awards for that special. Adding to his popularity was his much-publicized role as a commentator for Comedy Central’s Politically Incorrect during the 1996 Presidential elections which earned him an Emmy nomination.

Rock also was the voice for the “Lil Penny” puppet who was the alter ego to basketball star Penny Hardaway in a series of Nike shoe commercials from 1994–1998, and hosted the ’97 MTV Video Music Awards.

Rock later had two more HBO comedy specials: Bigger & Blacker in 1999, and Never Scared in 2004. Articles relating to both specials called Rock “the funniest man in America” in Time and Entertainment Weekly.

HBO also aired his talk show, The Chris Rock Show, which gained critical acclaim for Rock’s interviews with celebrities and politicians. The show won an Emmy for writing. His television work has won him a total of three Emmy Awards and 15 nominations. By the end of the decade, Rock was established as one of the preeminent stand-up comedians and comic minds of his generation.

During this time, Rock also translated his comedy into print form in the book Rock This! and released the Grammy Award-winning comedy albums, Roll with the New, Bigger & Blacker and Never Scared.

Rock’s fifth HBO special, Kill the Messenger, premiered on September 27, 2008, and won him another Emmy for outstanding writing for a variety or music program.

Since then, Chris has done a few additional movies (real-life and animated voice overs). Chris will definitely continue to be a vocal force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.

[via Wikipedia | image via BET]