Who Is Chris Rock?
Comedian Chris Rock grew up in Brooklyn, New York. 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 two Emmy award-winning HBO specials, three Grammy award-winning comedy albums and the popular sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. He has also twice hosted the Academy Awards.
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 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 garnered him respect as well as controversy from both white and minority communities.
Stand-Up Comedy Albums and Specials
At age 18, Rock was discovered by Eddie Murphy doing stand-up comedy at New York's Comedy Strip. In 1991, he released his first comedy album, Born Suspect.
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.
Rock also received Grammy Awards for his albums Roll With the New (1997), Bigger and Blacker (1999) and Never Scared (2004). His fifth comedy special, 2008's Kill the Messenger, resulted in a pair of Emmy wins.
After signing a deal with Netflix, the comedian returned to the stage for the 2018 release of Tamborine.
TV Shows and Movies
'Beverly Hills Cop II,' 'New Jack City'
A small role in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) was Rock's film debut. He also appeared in Keenan Ivory Wayans' I'm Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), before undertaking the more dramatic role of Pookie, a drug-addicted informant, in Mario Van Peebles' New Jack City (1991).
'Saturday Night Live'
In 1990, Rock followed in the footsteps of his idol, Murphy, by joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, where he enjoyed some success with his creation of the black power character Nat X. After three seasons on SNL, Rock left to pursue other career opportunities. He starred in the hip-hop comedy CB4 in 1993, and appeared on In Living Color for a handful of episodes that year prior to the show's cancellation.
'The Chris Rock Show'
In 1997, Rock began hosting his own television show, 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).
'Dogma,' 'Nurse Betty'
In 1999, he appeared in the irreverent big-screen comedy Dogma, alongside such stars as Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Salma Hayek. Rock had another big screen role in 2000, playing a hit man in the edgy comedy Nurse Betty, starring Renee Zellweger. His movies for the new millennium included Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), Bad Company (2002), co-starring Anthony Hopkins, and the voice of Marty in DreamWorks’ Madagascar (2005).
'Everybody Hates Chris'
In 2005, Rock debuted a sitcom 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.
Oscar Hosting and Controversy
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?"
In 2015, it was announced that Rock would return to host the 88th Academy Awards in 2016, marked by the uproar surrounding 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."
'Grown Ups,' 'Top Five'
Rock continued to thrive as a comedian and an actor. He appeared in such films as Death at a Funeral (2010) with Martin Lawrence, and Grown Ups (2010) with Adam Sandler, later returning for its 2013 sequel. In 2012, Rock starred opposite Julie Delpy in the independent romantic comedy 2 Days in New York. In 2014, he 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.
After rejoining Sandler for the comedy The Week Of (2018), Rock reunited with Murphy for an appearance in Dolemite Is My Name (2019). Meanwhile, he was set to star in season 4 of the acclaimed anthology series Fargo, as the head of a criminal syndicate.
Rock married Malaak Compton on November 23, 1996. The pair welcomed daughter Lola Simone in 2002 and daughter Zahra Savannah in 2004. In 2014, Rock filed for divorce from Compton, admitting to infidelity and porn addiction. Their divorce was finalized on August 22, 2016.
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