Born February 7, 1965, in Andrews, South Carolina, Chris Rock grew up in Brooklyn. At age 18, he was discovered by Eddie Murphy at New York's Comedy Strip. He went on to appear in films and on Saturday Night Live, and soon released his first comedy album. His successes include an Emmy award-winning HBO special, two Grammy award-winning comedy albums and the popular sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. He has also twice hosted the Academy Awards.
Background and Early Life
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 Brooklyn, New York. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Brooklyn's notoriously tough Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
He attended a nearly all-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. Rock is most noted for his raw humor and has no qualms about making fun of all sexes and races. His uninhibited nature has earned him respect and praise from both white and African-American communities.
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).
In 1990, Rock followed the footsteps of his idol, Murphy, by joining the cast of Saturday Night Live. A year later, he released his first comedy album, Born Suspect (1991). He also undertook the more dramatic role of playing Pookie, a drug addicted informant, in Mario Van Peebles' feature New Jack City (1991). After spending 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 shows 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 wide critical acclaim for the show. 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 (1996), Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). Films for the new millennium included Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), Bad Company (2002), costarring Anthony Hopkins, and the voice of Marty in DreamWorks’ Madagascar (2005).
Rock also received two Grammy Awards for his spoken comedy albums Roll With the New (1997) and Bigger and Blacker (1999). In 1999, he appeared in the irreverent big-screen comedy Dogma, alongside such stars as Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Salma Hayek. He had another big screen role in 2000, playing a hit man in the edgy comedy Nurse Betty, starring Renee Zellweger.
In 2005, Rock hosted the Academy Awards and received mixed reviews for his performance. He made actor Jude Law one of his punchlines, joking: "If you want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law, wait!" Prior to hosting, Rock also took a jab at the awards show: “What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one. And they don't recognize comedy, and you don't see a lot of black people nominated, so why should I watch it?"
'Everybody Hates Chris'
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 the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York City. The show quickly became the second most watched comedy on the network.
In 1996, Rock married Malaak Compton, a public relations executive. In December 2014, after nearly two decades together, the couple announced their plans to divorce. They have two daughters together: Lola Simone and Zahra Savannah.
Oscar Host Amidst Controversy
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.
In October 2015, it was announced that Rock would return to host the 88th Academy Awards in February 2016, with later uproar arising around the lack of ethnic diversity among the nominations. His opening monologue contained politicized humor that directly took on the controversy, including Hollywood hiring practices.
"Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to," he said during the monologue. "Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, 'We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.' That’s how Hollywood is. But things are changing. Things are changing."
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