Chris Rock

Chris Rock

Born Christopher Julius Rock Rock was raised in the Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods of Brooklyn, NY. His large family included not only seven siblings but a number of foster children, as Rock's mother, Rose, a special needs teacher and social worker, was a champion of helping disadvantaged children, despite the financial hardship it posed. But she and Rock's father, Julius, stressed hard work and encouraged their children to succeed, sending Chris to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School where, despite his talent for writing, he had a hard time fitting in socially and eventually dropped out to pursue comedy. Rock began performing in Manhattan comedy clubs as a teenager, where he was taken under the wings of older comics Sam Kinison and Eddie Murphy; the latter of whom helped him land an appearance on the HBO special, "Uptown Comedy Express" (1987). That same year, Rock made his feature film debut as a parking valet in "Beverly Hills Cop II." He continued to build his stand-up act and to make minor big screen appearances, including that of a rib joint customer in Keenen Ivory Wayans' satire, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988). The aspiring comic landed his big break in 1990 when he attended a casting call for "Saturday Night Live" and was selected to join a stellar cast that marked the series resurgence after a dismal period. Alongside Adam Sandler, David Spade, and his good friend Chris Farley, Rock lampooned black leaders, impersonated figures like Arsenio Hall, and created comic characters like militant talk show host Nat X and rapper I'm Chillin'. Rock released his first comedy album, Born Suspect, and further raised his profile by playing a con artist street dealer in the drama, "New Jack City" (1991), and a supporting role in the Eddie Murphy comedy, "Boomerang" (1992). By 1993, however, as his "SNL" co-stars began to emerge as major comedy stars, Rock had yet to experience a real break-out character, and was getting frustrated at what he felt were limited opportunities to play only token "black" roles on the show. He left the series for Fox's primarily black sketch comedy series, "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-94), but that former hit show was in its waning days and was cancelled after Rock had contributed to only nine episodes.Deciding that he would have to create his own opportunities to showcase his potential, Rock co-wrote, produced and starred in the rap spoof "CB4" (1993), in which he starred as a middle class guy who reinvents himself as a gangsta rapper. The film opened at No. 1 at the box office and received generally positive reviews, reinforcing that Rock was indeed a sizeable talent with an audience to match. His career really began to take hold when he transferred his stand-up act to the screen, first in the 1994 HBO special, "HBO Comedy Half-Hour: Chris Rock - Big Ass Jokes." Following small supporting roles in films "Panther" (1995) and "Sgt. Bilko" (1996), Rock co-executive produced, wrote and starred in his second HBO special, "Chris Rock: Bring the Pain" (1996), which reinvigorated his career and earned two Emmy Awards - one for writing and one for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. Rock was in competition with himself in the writing category, as he had also been nominated for his work as a correspondent during the 1996 political conventions for "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" (Comedy Central, 1993-97; ABC, 1997-2002). Rock joined "SNL" alumni Chris Farley in the late comic's final film, the martial arts comedy "Beverly Hills Ninja" (1997). When he died of a drug overdose in December of that year, Rock was devastated. In the first of many awards show gigs to come, he hosted the 1997 MTV Video Awards, as well as sealed his mutually beneficial relationship with HBO by launching "The Chris Rock Show," a late night talk show combining sketch comedy, stand-up, and celebrity guests, which earned instant acclaim for its excellent writing. Rock's career reached new heights that same year upon the release of his stand-up album, Roll with the New, which won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album, while his memoir, Rock This, climbed The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. The following year, Rock made a pair of big screen appearances, providing comic relief to the actioner, "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998) and voicing the animated Rodney the Guinea Pig in the family blockbuster, "Dr. Dolittle" (1998) starring Eddie Murphy. Teaming with fellow comic D.L. Hughley, Rock planted another stake in the TV world as co-creator and co-producer of the well-received family sitcom, "The Hughleys" (ABC, 1998-2000; UPN, 2000-02). In front of the camera, Rock turned in a hilarious performance as Rufus, the hitherto unknown 13th apostle, in Kevin Smith's controversial Catholic satire "Dogma" (1999), while "The Chris Rock Show" earned an Emmy for Best Writing and his stand-up album, Bigger and Blacker won a Grammy for Best Spoken Comedy Album. Rock hit the road to tour in support of the album, and was well-warmed up when he returned to the podium to reprise his hosting duties at the 1999 VMA's. By the year 2000, Rock had become one of America's favorite comedians - bridging the sometimes comic divide between black and white audiences. With a broad appeal to fans of both slapstick and social satire, film offers came at Rock fast and furious, notably in the romantic comedy "Down to Earth" (2001), where Rock essayed a struggling comedian who dies and is returned to Earth in the body of a rich, white man whose wife and lover are trying to kill him. The film, which Rock also executive produced, elevated him to leading man status and proved he was capable of carrying a movie; not just stealing scenes and cracking jokes as he did in the dark comedy "Nurse Betty" (2000), in which he was teamed with Morgan Freeman as a pair of hit men.Rock next lent his voice to the title character of the inventive animated feature film, "Osmosis Jones" (2001), as a renegade white-blood cell cop who is paired with a stuffy cold tablet (David Hyde Pierce) to combat a cold that has taken over Bill Murray's body. The busiest film year of Rock's career also included a scene-stealing cameo in "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001) and the unfortunate blaxploitation satire, "Pootie Tang" (2001), which he also produced. In an unlikely pairing with Anthony Hopkins, Rock appeared as a man recruited for his resemblance to his dead spy twin brother in the middling CIA action comedy, "Bad Company" (2002), then directed and co-wrote the uneven comedy "Head of State" (2003), in which he starred as an alderman plucked from obscurity to run for President of the United States. Rock hit the road for another national tour and filmed the stand-up special "Never Scared" (HBO, 2004), which was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Best Writing and for Best Variety, Music, or Comedy Show. The accompanying album went on to take home a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.His respect in the industry and his reputation for fiery, high-energy, live performances landed him one of Hollywood's most coveted - and risky - gigs. In 2005, Rock was tapped to host the 77th Annual Academy Awards. He made headlines even before the show aired, making snide comments about the show's stodgy irrelevance, but on the big night in question, he impressed viewers with his unabashed, razor-sharp jibes and the refreshingly brisk pace with which he kept the often glacial show moving. Meanwhile, Rock's own feature film career continued its momentum with a voice-over as Marty the Zebra in Disney's animated hit film "Madagascar" (2005), about four escaped zoo animals who find themselves struggling to survive in the wilds of Africa. He also appeared in the shameless remake, "The Longest Yard" (2005), starring old "SNL" buddy Adam Sandler in the role once occupied by a defiant, but charming Burt Reynolds.Having conquered the worlds of stand-up and feature film comedies, Rock finally had a solid television success with "Everybody Hates Chris" (UPN, 2005-2009), a semi-autobiographical sitcom he created, wrote, executive produced and narrated. The sitcom loosely chronicled his experiences as a 13-year-old growing up in Bed-Stuy, and attending a mostly white school. The show was also Rock's effort to produce a different kind of black sitcom family; one where the father is hard-working and reliable, the kids respect their parents, and they all form an overall happy, if financially struggling, unit. Rock's achievement in bringing something new to the stale, syrupy family sitcom genre resulted in the highest UPN ratings in that network's history and one of the most critically lauded debut series. Rock's sharp take on coming-of-age issues, family life, marriage, and race relations all added up to a universally appealing show that earned an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2006 and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Series the same year.Rock returned to the writer-director's chair in 2007 with "I Think I Love My Wife" (2007), a sharp-tongued comedy starring the actor as a bored suburban businessman contemplating infidelity when an old flame (Kerry Washington) reenters his life. Critics had little positive to say about the film or Rock's first semi-serious role, but enough audiences showed up to make the venture a financial, if not an artistic, success. Off-screen, the film's release coincided with ironic accusations that Rock - married since 1996 to non-profit founder Malaak Compton-Rock - had fathered a child with a heretofore unknown woman during an illicit affair. DNA tests proved that to not be the case, though the gossip machine did spin the event into untrue reports that Rock and his wife were separating. (Rock filed for divorce from Compton in December 2014.) The family man returned to his relatively normal, scandal-free life to lend his voice to Jerry Seinfeld's over-hyped animated film, "Bee Movie" (2007), and reprised his role in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008). For his next venture, Rock traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa; London, England; and Harlem's Apollo Theater to film the stand-up special "Kill the Messenger" (2008) - another ratings winner - and after arriving back home, toured the nation's beauty shops for his documentary "Good Hair" (2009), which examined the role of hair in African-American culture, and the myriad ways both men and women manage unmanageable frocks - from continual straightening to expensive weaves and wigs. Rock produced and starred in the remake of the 2007 British comedy "Death at a Funeral" (2010), about a series of misunderstandings and mishaps that befall one family when the patriarch dies. Although not a blockbuster, the movie did well at the box office, and received some good reviews. Rock's next project reunited him with his "SNL" cohorts Adam Sandler, David Spade and Rob Schneider for the warmly nostalgic, crowd-pleasing comedy "Grown Ups" (2010). In 2012, Rock switched it up to play the straight man as the calm, collected husband of Julie Delpy's eccentric Frenchwoman in the charming indie film "2 Days in New York," with critics taking notice of his uncharacteristic restraint. The year also found Rock in new-parent mode for the ensemble comedy "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and returning to the "Madagascar" fold for the lauded and surprisingly inspired "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." After staying in character as Marty the Zebra for the love-themed short "Madly Madagascar" (2013), Rock reunited with Sandler and company for "Grown Ups 2," another easy-going hit. His next project, "Top Five" (2014), was a romantic comedy satirizing the world of reality television that he wrote and produced as well as starring in. In 2016, Rock hosted the 88th Academy Awards in the face of protests, including calls for him to step down because for the second year in a row, no African-American actors had been nominated in the acting categories.