Chris Rock has established himself as a major comic force for over a decade. Returning frequently to his stand-up roots, Rock is also hoping that change comes to America come election day.
Returning to movie screens in the new Madagascar sequel, Rock, who rarely does interviews with the priont media, chatted to Paul Fischer about comedy, acting and politics:
Question: What was the most important thing about doing this second movie?
Rock: It was getting back with Ben. We had fallen out and I just thought …
Question: Is he as good as they say?
Rock: He’s better than they say.
Question: Do you censor yourself when you’re doing it?
Rock: It is weird because I don’t really curse that much off stage. I throw a couple out there from time to time, but when I’m offstage I don’t – yeah it’s weird. When I get up there it’s “f**ck, f**ck, f**ck, f**ck, f**ck.” It is kind of what the people want though.
Question: They expect that from you.
Rock: Yeah, it is a weird thing. It is not my “thing.” I try to write some jokes in between the “f**ck, f**ck, f**cks.” Sometimes my daughters are at gymnastics and people are commenting on how I’m not cursing. Like I would be cursing at gymnastics. “So what’s up mother f**cker?” Like that’s how they expect me to be.
Question: Now on Madagascar, you had one day in the studio working with Ben. How was your one day together? How freeing was that?
Rock: It felt different. He’s a funny guy. Ben’s funny. We are the same age and we have a lot of similarities in our lives so it wasn’t this big thing having to overcome. It wasn’t like two guys having to be overly polite to each other.
Question: You all had back stories this time. Did you like this turn in the script that we got to know you more as individuals?
Rock: I think this is a better movie than the first one. We know the characters and now its let’s make a great story. The first one felt like the pilot and sometimes the pilot is clunky because you’ve got to get all these people in and all this information. Now we are just doing episodes.
Question: Jada mentioned the third one might be in India. What do you think?
Rock: India, the Bollywood version of “Move It, Move It.”
Question: Do you want to direct anything soon?
Rock: I’m trying to get through this year without doing it, but you never know.
Question: Can you talk about what you are going to do on Nov. 5 if Obama wins.
Rock: If he wins – you are always going to make fun of the president no matter what. You are a comedian, like “Oh black brother, I can’t tell jokes about this guy.” I loved Bill Clinton and I love Bill Clinton to this day, but when he slipped I was right there.
Question: If Obama slips would you take him out?
Rock: I’ll take him out [laughs].
Question: How optimistic are you about the election?
Rock: I wouldn’t be shocked if you we don’t know who the president is the night of the election. I wouldn’t be shocked.
Question: You recently had a very good special on HBO with some very interesting editing choices between two different performances. How did that come about?
Rock: It was actually Rick Rubin’s idea. He called me up one day, paged me actually, and said “you should do your special in three or four countries and cut them as one.” That was it. I kind of thought it was crazy the first time I read it and then about three weeks later it was getting to that point that HBO was like “Want to do a special?” and I needed something to motivate me, because just doing it isn’t enough motivation. So it was like what could be different? Stand up can get so boring, we’ve seen the guy in front of the camera, the guy in front of the screen, whatever. I just needed a chance to fail, something to excite me and that idea definitely excited me.
Question: Why return to stand up? Is it because that’s where your roots are?
Rock: It is because that’s what I do, if I was an actor in the theater I’m sure I would return to that from time to time. I’m a stand up comedian and the other things I get to do because I’m a stand up comedian. I just like doing it.
Question: Has your sense of humor changed as you’ve gotten older and now have a family?
Rock: I don’t know. I’ve changed. I try to take breaks in between so I don’t – I never want to be one of those guys who is always doing gigs, there is a staleness to that. Like you’re in Vegas every week and you know the guy’s going to be there. I try to take breaks. I haven’t don it in – Zara was – my wife was pregnant with Zara so I hadn’t done it in four years. It is almost like I got all the jokes I could out of that guy. Let me go become another guy and then I will tell some more jokes.
Question: Was it a different process for you knowing you were going to be taping it like this – were you onstage thinking, “F**ck I didn’t say it the same way”?
Rock: No, it was weird. Early on in the tour it was like, “Wow, people laugh at the same things in every country.” I couldn’t believe it. Lightening struck. Everything worked out.