Funnyman Chris Rock has enjoyed one of the steadiest careers in comedy and film, getting his start in the early ’80s as a stand-up comic at famed comedy club chain Catch A Rising Star. Making an impression on fellow comic-actor Eddie Murphy after a performance, Rock finally made his big break into Hollywood in Beverley Hills Cop II and hasn’t looked back since.
Born in Andrews, Sc., in 1965 to parents Julius and Rosalie, Rock and his siblings moved to New York, where Rock struggled to fit in between the predominately white schools he was bussed to and the meager means his family could afford in their tough neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Never finishing high school, Rock went on to complete his GED, working odd jobs in the meantime. Comedy soon became Rock’s outlet, and it was Eddie Murphy who jump started his career. According to a 2002 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Rock became aware of an open mic comedy showcase while waiting in line at the Radio City Music Hall to see Murphy perform. Doing well in his debut, he was invited to work the club before Murphy discovered him and cast him in the “Beverly Hills” sequel.
Rock made a scene-stealing turn in the Keenan Ivory Wayans blaxploitation parody “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” leading to more comedy jobs and an appearance on the popular late night “The Arsenio Hall Show.” Executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels saw Rock during an appearance and asked him to audition in 1990; Rock worked the show for three seasons.
In 1996, HBO comedy special “Bring the Pain” was the precise moment Rock became one of the hottest comics around. To this day, the Emmy Award-winning special stands as one of the greatest stand-up events of all time, cementing Rock’s name firmly into the annals of comic history. HBO graciously awarded Rock with his own late-night program, “The Chris Rock Show,” which ran from 1997 until 2000.
In his career, Rock has starred in a variety of films, such as the cult classic “New Jack City,” rap comedy “CB4,” “Boomerang,” and later fare like “Death at a Funeral.” Rock voiced a cartoon character in the family film “Madagascar” and also sat in the director’s chair for his feature films “Head of State” and “I Think I Love My Wife.” Rock also managed to spin his real life into television success with the semi-autobiographical sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris.”
Never afraid to tackle tough subjects in his comedy, Rock released the controversial documentary “Good Hair,” which focused on African-American women, their hair, and the styling industry. A true conversation starter, Rock’s film was both serious and humorous. Rock ran into some legal snafus in getting “Good Hair” released, after filmmaker Regina Kimbell alleged Rock stole the idea from her documentary that shared a similar theme.
Rock married Malaak Compton-Rock in 1996, and the couple now has two daughters, Lola and Zahra. Despite false rumors in the press about their divorce, their marriage has held strong. Rock is set to ruffle feathers again with the release of the documentary “Credit Is The Devil” some time this year.
In the film, Rock will focus on credit cards and overspending in America. Rock’s career ascent is one for the ages and his razor-sharp wit continues to remain his strongest suit. Whether inducing bellyaching laughs or providing thought-provoking conversations, Rock is without a doubt a legend in the realm of comedy.
Happy 47th birthday, Chris Rock!
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