“Wow. Let’s drive to another town. We should not sleep here.”
December 1, 2014 6:38 AM   Subscribe

 
I love Chris Rock. He is just so sharp.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don’t pay that much attention to it [political correctness] I mean, you don’t want to piss off the people that are paying you, obviously, but otherwise I’ve just been really good at ignoring it.

That right there is what I love about Chris Rock. Because any point he might make about the world he will temper with a true wry introspection about his own life. He can't say something like "I don't care about offending the powers that be" without acknowledging, probably with a big grin, that whoever is signing his checks have to be the exception. Great interview.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


I love this: I always call Ellen DeGeneres the gay Rosa Parks. If Rosa Parks had one of the most popular daytime TV shows, I’m sure the civil-rights movement would’ve moved a little bit faster too.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


Q. And what did you make of [Obama]?

A. Kind of cool. I always say, cooler than most politicians, not as cool as actual cool people.

posted by Beardman at 6:55 AM on December 1, 2014 [65 favorites]


I read this interview earlier this morning, and one of the first things that I thought -- after "wow, fantastic interview!" was "I bet this ends up on Mefi later."
posted by Annabelle74 at 7:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Really, I want to go through that interview with a yellow highlighter. There are so many great lines.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Wow. What a great piece. Rock is smart as hell.
posted by octothorpe at 7:04 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


My mother tells stories of growing up in Andrews, South Carolina, and the black people had to go to the vet to get their teeth pulled out. And you still had to go to the back door, because if the white people knew the vet had used his instruments on black people, they wouldn’t take their pets to the vet. This is not some person I read about. This is my mother.
posted by brokkr at 7:08 AM on December 1, 2014 [70 favorites]


Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Shots fired.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:08 AM on December 1, 2014 [141 favorites]


"But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:11 AM on December 1, 2014 [40 favorites]


When I read the headline, I had these visions in my head of Chris Rock on a wild road trip with the Butcher of Broadway. It's a good interview but it's not that.
posted by graymouser at 7:12 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

This interview is really great. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.
posted by hepta at 7:19 AM on December 1, 2014 [70 favorites]


I was probably going to see it anyway, but I feel obligated to go see Top Five opening weekend now just to thank him for so many of the lines of this interview, including this one:

[Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, just came out as gay] is actually bigger than the football player. Because the average person in that locker room is in his 20s. And it’s just not a big deal to be around a gay guy—if you’re in your 20s. Whereas Tim Cook is around these corporate guys. That is the epitome of a boys’ club. That is sexist, ­racist—the least inclusive group of people you’re ever going to find. Men who have no problem being called owners. Who actually wants to be called an owner, even if you owned a football team? Just the title owner is just so nasty and disgusting...So Tim Cook came out to those guys. He’s in that club. My God.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:21 AM on December 1, 2014 [31 favorites]


Well, he certainly was firing on every cylinder.
posted by valkane at 7:26 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had to read the vet anecdote three times before I realized he says vet the first time. I was reading it as dentist and only saw the second instance of vet. Then I was horrified. Christ, do we ever need nicer white people.
posted by sio42 at 7:28 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Love Chris Rock. Good Hair taught me so much about my country.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:29 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


So many good thoughts in here. Damn.

And the thing about George Bush is that the kid revolutionized the presidency. How? He was the first president who only served the people who voted for him. He literally operated like a cable network. You know what I mean?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:31 AM on December 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


Such great stuff in there. I'll have to queue him up tonight. I haven't watched Rock in ages, and it seems overdue.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:35 AM on December 1, 2014


I never have the patience to read celebrity interviews all the way through, but that was absolutely brilliant.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:40 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I would love to be a 60 Minutes correspondent. {...} I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.{...} When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before. {...} So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.”

It's a good point worth revisiting. If Rock hadn't a preternaturally funny sense of humor, he could have been a terrific op-ed pundit.

The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Here's hoping...
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


He's an awesomely sharp interview subject. I'd love to see him interview people on a newsmagazine.
posted by Renoroc at 7:50 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Doesn't seem to understand the economics of operating an airline, though.
posted by Nevin at 7:51 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Such a great interview; I know comedians tend to belabor this point a little, but this is so fucking spot on:
Let’s put it this way. Take Anchorman. Now switch the directors of Anchorman and Gone Girl and give them their movies to do. Adam McKay’s going to get closer to Gone Girl than Fincher is going to get to Anchorman.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:01 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think he's wrong about sitcoms though. Some people did come with congregations already (Seinfeld was already the #1 comedian in America when his show came out and it nearly ruined him [and TV has ruined more comic's careers than it has made]) but Roseanne was relatively unknown I think, and there definitely have been times when comedians got scooped up to star in a sitcom that broke them way beyond their own fans. Not to mention comic actors like Woody Harrelson, or writers like Mindy Kaling or Tim and Eric.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


On white privilege: Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:05 AM on December 1, 2014 [50 favorites]


... The middle’s where it’s at, comically. I mean, what do you got? Miller, Stewart, Maher.

Miller on the right, Stewart in the middle, Maher on the left?

And the most successful guy’s …

Stewart?

Stewart’s middle-to-left, but he’s still more in the middle.
God help us if Bill fucking Maher represents the left pole of an discipline that's known for attracting its share of liberals. I watch his show, and it's certainly entertaining, but I'd put Stewart to his left even with his "both sides do it" affectation.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2014 [22 favorites]


God help us if Bill fucking Maher represents the left pole of an discipline that's known for attracting its share of liberals. I watch his show, and it's certainly entertaining, but I'd put Stewart to his left even with his "both sides do it" affectation.

it certainly tells you how deeply Chris Rock is thinking about politics... not that a comedian needs to be carefully political. From this interview I'd put Rock in the same boat as Stewart, aiming for a this-is-what-we-all-believe-amirite? bourgeois conventional wisdom... except that he's black and that puts him in the same place as Obama where every twitch gets interpreted by people on the right as angry-radical-black-man and people on the left as righteous-radical-black-revolutionary.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


God help us if Bill fucking Maher represents the left pole of an discipline that's known for attracting its share of liberals.

I think Rock's math works if you replace Maher with John Oliver.
posted by mightygodking at 8:46 AM on December 1, 2014 [18 favorites]


"But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down."

That's insightful. Love it.
posted by boo_radley at 8:55 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I caught the replay of his SNL monologue the other night. From the I'm Never-Going-to-Go-There Tower to the Jesus' Birthday Shopping Season to gun control, it was a Rock in great form. All the stuff you think of but can only sometimes be half as funny articulating.
And the discussion of why comedians can be so depressive is true of anyone who's intelligent enough and honest enough to face how the world really is.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:01 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Really, I want to go through that interview with a yellow highlighter. There are so many great lines.

You weren't kidding. Quotables for days.
posted by cashman at 9:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I cringed when I saw him put Maher on the left, but Rock's bigger point is that overly predictable politics makes for bad comedy.

And: "I’ll say this. Poor people laugh harder than rich people. Especially black people, they laugh with their feet, too."
posted by leopard at 9:06 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think Rock's math works if you replace Maher with John Oliver.

I dunno, Oliver hasn't had as much time to establish himself as Maher, is still absolutely cut from the same mold as Stewart, and isn't nasty-smug the way that Miller and Maher are. Miller and Maher make sensible counterparts as shitty people from, if not opposite, than at least different points on the spectrum.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:08 AM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


As I told Bill Murray, Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich. Not in the sense that people are being mean to you. Bill Murray’s in Tokyo, and it’s just weird. He seems kind of isolated. He’s always around Japanese people. Look at me right now.

Wow. Now I have to see Lost in Translation again.
posted by eclectist at 9:14 AM on December 1, 2014 [42 favorites]


Damn, it's not just that Rock is insightful, he's so amazingly concise. Every single line of this interview is the most amount of thought expressed in the least possible amount of words.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:17 AM on December 1, 2014 [56 favorites]


White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy.

That's the most concise summary of the thing i've ever seen.

Amazing interview.
posted by zompist at 9:18 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

QFFT.
posted by suelac at 9:21 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can't wait for the new movie...going to re-watch 2 Days in New York with Rock and Julie Delpy, which I think is underrated and underappreciated.

Bullet Control!
posted by brainimplant at 9:25 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was interesting:

I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

In their political views?

Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

posted by shivohum at 9:26 AM on December 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


I'm going to use this one the next time the subject of reparations comes up:

Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.
posted by librosegretti at 9:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Bill Murray was in Japan because he was a fading actor who could make good money by doing ads.That has been for some time a convention and the Japanese respect those white actors, so I do not see a white guy in an Asian setting, alone and disliked or treated in a bad manner because of color.

A good half of the interview about show biz...seems to me the issue much bigger and deserves not to be a mix as it now is, of one liners about being Black, Obama, etc and show biz comics.
Oddly put together: the interviewer's remarks in bold; Rock's answers in plain text.
I am very fond of Rock. That said, I am not as taken with it as most here seem to be.
posted by Postroad at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2014


a great comic on race
>How To Relax Your Colored Friends At Parties
posted by Postroad at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2014


The Lost in Translation analogy makes a lot of sense to me, because he's talking about it as a metaphor for a very specific black experience - that of being rich and famous and black in America. I've told this story here before, but a million years ago (probably Spring of 2000) I was at the Comedy Cellar with maybe four or five other people in the house, on a Tuesday night, when Dave Chappelle dropped by. (Incidentally, Rock had also made a surprise appearance that night, but he was just hashing out his material for hosting the MTV Movie awards two nights later.)

Chappelle just sat down and chatted with us for about an hour and a half. He was funny, he was charming, but he wasn't doing material at all. He was alienated, frustrated, distraught, and confused, because he was finally truly successful and well-known, and everyone he knew was white and seemed to come from a different planet than he did. Everyone in this audience was white as well, but as he told us many times, he just desperately needed to be able to talk to somebody.

He had, basically, reached his Lost in Translation point. He had the brass ring, he was loved and respected, and he felt totally out of place and alone, unable to relate to anybody. We saw later how that played out for him (and I think in retrospect he all have to respect his actions going forward from there - few people could have made the decisions he did) but I think what Rock says there makes total sense.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2014 [46 favorites]


If collectively (myself included) we all post the lines in this great interview that we thought were brilliant, I suspect we would recreate the entire interview.
posted by twsf at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


so I do not see a white guy in an Asian setting, alone and disliked or treated in a bad manner because of color.

I don't know. I'm not a well-known, wealthy black comedian. If Chris Rock says that film jibes with his experiences, I'm going to go ahead and assume he is the expert and I am not.
posted by maxsparber at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [80 favorites]


Annabelle74: "I read this interview earlier this morning, and one of the first things that I thought -- after "wow, fantastic interview!" was "I bet this ends up on Mefi later.""

Ditto!

Obscure Reference: " Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for."

Yeah, I am stealing that line for all future arguments with people who are like "racism is over" AND people who are like "estate taxes are evil."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yet another quote from this gold mine:

"there’s a part of Hillary that’s like the Democratic McCain at this point"

Ouch.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2014 [17 favorites]


Roseanne was relatively unknown I think

I don't think that's true; I remember watching her stand-up specials on Comedy Central before she got a show, and I'm fairly sure my parents went to at least one show she headlined. (Do comics "headline"? Replace with more appropriate word if not.)
posted by jaguar at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not a standup comedy person at all, but this interview was brilliant. Even when I didn't agree with things (e.g., Maher), it was so sharp and concise that I couldn't help but admire what we're all describing as the quotability of it. And yet I feel really shitty about pointing that out in a "I just described a black man as articulate" way.
posted by immlass at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


And yet I feel really shitty about pointing that out in a "I just described a black man as articulate" way.

Seems to me that if Rock were here, he'd make fun of you for feeling that way.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:13 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I was struck by the sheer pithy brilliant wit on display in the interview, and I don't think I was subconsciously buying into any kind of "articulate black man" stereotype for taking notice. Rock's a stand up comedian first and foremost, and clearly a lot of his success in that field comes from his verbal acrobatics. It's just interesting being able to discern that from a printed interview.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:19 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think I was subconsciously buying into any kind of "articulate black man" stereotype for taking notice.

It's more about how to express that without evoking the stereotype (especially for a white person). The quality of the interview is clear when you read it.
posted by immlass at 10:23 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


The quote about not being able to be offensive on your way to being inoffensive that shivohum pulled out is perfect. And without trying to start arguments, it's definitely something I've felt here on more than one occasion.
posted by graphnerd at 10:24 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Bill Murray was in Japan because he was a fading actor who could make good money by doing ads.

Applying the adjective "fading" to Bill Murray seems to me about as apt as saying that Joan Rivers had lost her edge (see end of Rock interview for his take). Bill Murray -- and Rock for that matter -- are beyond the logic of "fading"/"not fading." They're both doing plenty well for themselves without being a part of the "who's up/who's down" sweepstakes.
posted by blucevalo at 10:25 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Applying the adjective "fading" to Bill Murray seems to me about as apt as saying that Joan Rivers had lost her edge (see end of Rock interview for his take).

I believe we're talking about his character in the movie, not Bill Murray himself.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:28 AM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


I resent that comment, graphnerd.

(Ba-dum-BUMP!)
posted by mondo dentro at 10:39 AM on December 1, 2014


It's well-known that Rock's style is 75% premise, 25% joke. For every bit he establishes, then re establishes, then re re establishes the premise as he teases out the comedy. This allows him to go after ideas that are usually too complex for a normal standup to express, but it also means that the jokes he tells are necessarily more muscular and precise than anyone else's. Most comedian's worry about pacing and timing, but if you watch Rock deliver the same joke on two different nights, you can tell he is worrying not just about pace, but about syllables. He's paying attention to how hard he hits his consonants, or stretches out his vowels.

What I mean to say is that a candid Rock interview is so powerful because it's just like his material - he spends so much time in his head, recognizing the premise, that when he speaks, it's that 25% that matters.

Or something. It's Monday.
posted by Think_Long at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


Seems to me that if Rock were here, he'd make fun of you for feeling that way.

Yes and no. I mean, Rock is clearly a good guy, ans almost certainly both smarter and wiser than most of us here, and I'm sure he gets a lot of humor from awkward liberal white guilt and all, because that is, indeed, funny. At the same time, he was himself in many ways the starter pistol on calling out "articulate" as a back-handed compliment towards African-Americans with his old bit about calling Colin Powell "Well-spoken."
posted by Navelgazer at 10:45 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


And yet I feel really shitty about pointing that out in a "I just described a black man as articulate" way.

That's because you're using articulate in the wrong way. Articulate is generally (just off of google) as "(of a person or a person's words) having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently."

Almost every person you meet is articulate. Articulate is a low bar, and so saying a black person is articulate is an insult in the 'damning with faint praise' camp. It's the verbal equivalent of being able to pluck out a simple song on a piano.

Sure, Rock is articulate, so what? I am too. Almost everyone is.

The precision, whit, and conciseness everyone is describing here is not articulateness. It's virtuosity. Dazzling by default.
posted by bswinburn at 10:47 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Teju Cole writes in response to this interview: "Listen, Chris Rock is smarter than you. What I like about this interview is not that I agree with everything he says (agreement is small potatoes), but that he displays in every response an independence of mind that isn't simply an attempt to poke or provoke. He's thinking. And his mind is at least as fast as Robin Williams'. He's letting fly these metaphors, each of which hits the mark, until the center of the target gets crowded."
posted by standardasparagus at 10:49 AM on December 1, 2014 [41 favorites]


Sure, Rock is articulate, so what? I am too. Almost everyone is.

Well, not almost everyone. Even my graduate students have difficulty articulating their thoughts. But you are dead on that "articulate" is a back-handed compliment. Eloquent is more like it, coupled with incisive and expressive.

Oh, and Ms. Wimp would totally leave me if Chris Rock showed the slightest interest in her. Seriously.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Most comedian's worry about pacing and timing, but if you watch Rock deliver the same joke on two different nights, you can tell he is worrying not just about pace, but about syllables. He's paying attention to how hard he hits his consonants, or stretches out his vowels.

He had a special a few years ago that was made up of several different performances that are constantly intercut mid-sentence. It's distracting in the same way prog-rock is: the skill of it all is so mind-blowing that it's hard to hear the tune, as it were.
posted by graphnerd at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I love Chris Rock. I wish he could be President.

Forever.
posted by freakazoid at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2014


I worked on Good Hair in 2007 and spent a bit of time with Chris Rock. It was a really great experience and what struck me most about him was his seriousness.

When we did interviews with people for the film, he really listenened to them, not just for a way to get in a laugh line, but with analytical curiosity, which isn't something I've seen a lot of comedians do. This is the first interview with him that shows that side well. I'm impressed.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2014 [41 favorites]


What's so impressive about the interview is that in our sensationalistic, media-saturated culture it's very difficult for us to have a discussion about race that is genuine, incisive and fresh. No matter where one sits in the ideological spectrum, we've heard it all before, so it's easy to be jaded about the whole sorry state of affairs even as we acknowledge how tragic and infuriatingly unjust it all is.

Rock somehow managed to break through the cliches to give us genuinely new insights (and I don't think they're new just to us white latte drinking lefties--but I might be wrong). I've genuinely never before heard some of these ideas about race articulated so concisely, clearly, and with so much empathy for the larger human condition. I mean, one could imagine building entire campaigns around some of his ideas.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:03 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


This was great to read. I've been feeling sad in the last few days, and tired.

Chris Rock gets it.
posted by droplet at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Has there ever been any serious talk of him hosting a late night? Has he ever expressed any interest? I know he had a little bit on that late night arc on Louie, but beyond that and the brief mention in this interview, I haven't seen anything.

Then again, I think late night shows are something that comedians care a lot more about than the average, non-late night watching public.
posted by Think_Long at 11:30 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't want to see Chris Rock do late night. This interview illustrates why: he is witty, pointed, and insightful. He makes arguments. Late night talk show hosts don't make arguments, they crack wise. Even Jon Stewart slips by on a well-oiled track of sneering and mockery, which, while gratifying to those who agree with his points, is not an argument. John Oliver makes arguments; let's see how long he lasts before wasting Chris Rock on a similar show.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think he did produce Kamau Bell's show, which had some teeth.
posted by Think_Long at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Damn, it's not just that Rock is insightful, he's so amazingly concise. Every single line of this interview is the most amount of thought expressed in the least possible amount of words.

Which makes me think even more, "he would be amazing as a newscaster." Or give him a show like Last Week Tonight and let him and his crew really polish the piece, telling a few really hard stories with appropriate humor, in a cramped 30 minute timeframe. I'd call it 30 Minutes, Give or Take, as an homage to 60 Minutes, but also a jab at it for not actually being 60 minutes long.
Where else besides Ferguson would you hypothetically want to interview white people?

I’d love to do some liberal places, because you can be in the most liberal places and there’s no black people.
Check out Pacific Grove, California, as covered by NPR in a piece titled Six Words: 'With Kids, I'm Dad. Alone, Thug'. Which, as you could expect made locals uncomfortable.

Also, I'd like to see Lost in Translation remade as the story of "what Bryant Gumbel experiences every day. Or Al Roker." Except it would make people really uncomfortable, which is the point behind what Rock is saying.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I thought that's what The Chris Rock Show was.
posted by cashman at 12:00 PM on December 1, 2014


I was reading this and hearing Chris Rock's "Rufus" character from Dogma. It was the same kind of patient, sincere, explaining-to-whities, funny commentary that is obviously backed by deep layers of knowledge and comprehension. Like a "here's a peek at my inner brain workings on THAT topic" that just leaves the listener/reader eager for more of his insight.

He is SO funny, and you just HAVE to love that side grin of his when he's watching to see if you got the joke.

Thanks for posting!
posted by jillithd at 12:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought that's what The Chris Rock Show was.

Except it was couched as a skit comedy show, so its format and audience were different than Last Week Tonight. In my eyes, it was a comedy show that was pointed and honest, instead of a news show that is funny.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Agreed, sonic meat machine, Rock is a fantastic interview subject, because of all the reasons we've been mentioning here (and he's also a fascinating example of someone who has always been great, and right-on, but who has also clearly matured in all the right ways over time while never losing perspective) and I'm certain that, as red swoon has no past mentions, he's an insightful and engaged interviewer as well (I haven't seen Good Hair, but I clearly need to) but I think it's just not the format where he might be best.

I could be wrong of course, but if he did Late Nite, I think it'd be a very, very different animal than what we've seen from him so far. As has been mentioned here, and as he alludes to in the interview, he workshops and crafts his material like a master vintner - he pays attention to how every syllable will play. He parses out his bits to lead you ever so carefully towards the points he's making, and far better than the preachers to whom he was so commonly compared back in the day. (Seriously, take any of the best regular public speakers today who share his general style. Take Al Sharpton, and put him on the same stage as Chris Rock for a night, and have them speak on the same topics. Which one is any audience going to remember a day, a week, a month, a year later?)

I think what he says about college crowds makes sense. I'm not sure that I would describe it as "conservative," though I get what he means by that - it cramps his style, which by nature requires playing off of his audience. If his audience jeers at some step of the way of him getting them to where they both want to go, it doesn't work.

I'm rambling a bit, but let me point out something I just noticed today while looking through clips. His bit on homophobia, from Bigger and Blacker. He has the line, towards the beginning:

"I've got a gay uncle, we call him 'Aunt Tom.' Every Christmas he comes over with his friend."

Some things about that line:

1.) It looks awful out of context, but in context is totally different.
2.) Calling out homophobia is benign enough now, but this was in the 90s, to an audience that demographics suggest was probably somewhat socially conservative, and so was a lot more groundbreaking.*
3.) Aside from "Aunt Tom," the most gay-denigrating thing he says in the routine is "you was playing ball, he was jumping rope," which isn't exactly hateful. If you were around comedy clubs in that era, you know how nasty homophobia got on stage.
4.) The way he says "friend" has an unbelievable amount of nuance to it, much of it set up by context, but for one thing, it's a reading that only Rock could deliver, and for another, it says not just the surface bit that "we all know he's not just a "friend," but also that it's tragic and absurd that Tom should have to call him his "friend." The joke isn't about Tom being gay, but about the rest of society being too ignorant to let Tom be open about his life.
5.) That bit, and this interview, shows that Rock sees all equal rights struggles as comparable and worthy, which is not always easy for the people fighting those battles to see.

Anyway, I adore Chris Rock.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:09 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


Gah! My * was supposed to go to this:

*Ron White did a bit calling out homophobia a few years later, to a much more conservative audience on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which was cool, but not as big a deal as Rock's bit.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


When we did interviews with people for the film, he really listenened to them, not just for a way to get in a laugh line, but with analytical curiosity, which isn't something I've seen a lot of comedians do.

Discussing that habit of his in this interview, he notes that it began at the outset of his career:

When I started doing comedy at Catch a Rising Star, I used to get there at 7:45 and leave about two in the morning. That’s six hours a night watching comedians for a good six years straight. Just watching, watching, watching. What I learned more than what I wanted to be was what I didn’t want to be and what I didn’t want to say.

Earlier, he explains:

When you’re looking for subjects, do you go with your gut?

You keep notes. You look for the recurring. What’s not going away? Boy, this police-brutality thing — it seems to be lingering. What’s going to happen here? You don’t even have the joke, you just say, “Okay, what’s the new angle that makes me not sound like a preacher?” Forget being a comedian, just act like a reporter. What’s the question that hasn’t been asked? How come white kids don’t get shot? Have you ever watched television and seen some white kid get shot by accident?

And out of that comes comedy.

Comes humor. You laughed right away. I just asked a question that no one had ever asked.

posted by Doktor Zed at 12:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Chris Rock reminds me of no one so much as Jane Austen. He has an incisive, witty way of highlighting the unquestioned absurdities of human relations, in well-phrased and keenly-observed stories.

Aaaaaaaaand now I want to see a movie that's a Jane Austen/Chris Rock mashup. He'd be a great Elizabeth Bennet, don't you think?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:51 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


Huh, given his age, and the fact that he's a devoted father of daughters, I can imagine a really good updating of Pride & Prejudice with him as Mr. Bennet, actually.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


Before I read this I had only ever watched Chris Rock on video. I think some of the delight and surprise reading this is that when I'm watching him, I'm focusing in part on how funny his delivery is. I knew he was smart but I never realized how smart because my cheeks were hurting from laughing. So it was surprisingly fun to get Chris Rock without the cheeky grin and rock-solid comedic timing. Seeing his words as plain text underscores just how wise and thoughtful he is. It's not a laugh a minute, it's just the truths and insights behind that laughter, laid bare.

I think the only other comedian I've really felt this way about is Stephen Colbert, and with him it's a lot more complicated because in most of my exposure to him, he's playing a character whose personality is so distinct from his own.
posted by town of cats at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like, seriously, I'm trying to script this Pride & Prejudice reimagining in my head now. I think, given that it would by nature focus on an upper-class African-American family, where presumably the patriarch is the one who broke the family into that class (thus first or second generation "wealthy") there are a lot of ways to make it work, where Mr. Bennet constantly has the idea that his daughters don't have the same understandings about society that he had to deal with, and thus aren't prepared for it, etc.

I picture the Chris Rock Mr. Bennet as a more central character than he even is in the book, in part because of star-power, but also because Rock would bring an acerbic wit that already exists in the character and could be used well on screen for the social satire, and for meaningful moments when he comes out of his sardonic torpor because he genuinely connects with and respects Lizzy. I also picture a scene where the long-and-rightly mocked, seemingly superficial Mrs. Bennet has a conversation with Lydia before she goes off with Wickham, asking if Wickham is kind and listens to Lydia, trying to make up for her own haste in marriage.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


I picture that Mr. Darcy's first proposal has to center around the idea that he's "not cool" around Lizzy's family, as a substitution for "ungentlemanly," so we need a romantic lead who is cool in his element, but frosty and uncomfortable and acts superior around the Bennets. I'm not sure if that lead should be black, white, or another race, but I'm pretty sure that in the context of the script it would matter. Same with Wickham.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:47 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


His new movie is out the night before my wife gets into town. Date night for us!

I love Chris Rock. I kept constantly linking out to clips of him in class (class was on race, class, and gender) this semester, telling my students "No, I can't play this in class, but really, go watch it. Please. But, I can't show it in class. But go watch it. Please."
posted by joycehealy at 2:59 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


graphnerd:
He had a special a few years ago that was made up of several different performances that are constantly intercut mid-sentence.
This is the tremendous "Kill the Messenger". The cuts are even more impressive when you realise that Rock would have had to travel and settle into the space again every time: one was shot in London, one New York and the last in Johannesburg.

Oddly enough, for me, I didn't realise it was being intercut the first few times... the cuts are perfect, and I was too dazzled by the material.
posted by curious.jp at 3:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


When you made the movie Good Hair,12 it was almost a 60 Minutes kind of investigative piece.

I would love to be a 60 Minutes correspondent.

What would you want to cover?

I would cover anything. I mean, I’d be in Ferguson right now, and it would be in-depth, and it would be funny


Just came here to say that I would watch the shit out of this show. HBO, you hear that? Yes, Oliver is on a roll, but would love to see more like it. (and frankly, I'm tired of Maher's Real Time, you can toss that and give Rock his own talk/news show.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:25 PM on December 1, 2014


This is the tremendous "Kill the Messenger".

Oh God. Not to derail, but Rock just completely nailed the games/mentality of having a shitty job.

I think I'll hug my desk extra hard now.
posted by whittaker at 3:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ron White did a bit calling out homophobia a few years later, to a much more conservative audience on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, which was cool, but not as big a deal as Rock's bit.

I like Chris Rock better than Ron White any day of the week and twice on Sundays. But Ron White's joke is the better laugh. Rock's joke is deeper, and maybe with the right delivery, is more touching. It takes a lot of talent to hit friend just right to convey annoyance (at the lie), sympathy (with the reason for the lie), sadness (because of the lie's necessity), and hypocrisy (Tom's, Rock's, and ours).

But White's is a more brutal, slap-you-in-the-face, you ignorant ass kind of joke. It gets the bigger guffaw, because it sneaks up on you.

Patton Oswalt does a genius bit on Cirque de Soleil indicating the fundamental hypocrisy of the homophobe. It's in a middle rank looking at how the prejudiced are happy with the oppressed group as long as they're in their place. Less of Rock's nuance, more leaning towards White's club you over the head approach.
posted by aureliobuendia at 3:40 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Obama came out of nowhere, basically. At which point Bill Clinton started making public statements that often seemed one step away from knifing Obama.

He’s a dick, but you’re talking about a guy who’s embarrassed his wife. So he had a choice, and I couldn’t judge him. I had to choose between pissing off all the black people in the world or having my wife mad at me? Then the hell with the black people, because he doesn’t live with all the black people. He lives with his wife.

Even though he was the first black president.

Allegedly. Until a black guy showed up.

posted by Sebmojo at 3:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


But White's is a more brutal, slap-you-in-the-face, you ignorant ass kind of joke. It gets the bigger guffaw, because it sneaks up on you.

And White's joke also indicts the whole audience as being somewhere on the Kinsey scale, while making them laugh at anyone who would claim otherwise, which is the important thing, to me.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2014


I was hoping he would have addressed his How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police bit, which I've been seeing all over the place recently in regards to recent events like Ferguson. Because it sure seems like victim-blaming bullshit to me. Oh, you'll be fine, just obey the law, be polite, and turn your music down, and you won't get your ass kicked by the police.

It's exactly what a lot of casual low level racists who don't think they're racist seem to believe is the solution to police brutality, and such people are now using this video to spread its and their message. I've been curious for some time now as to how Rock views his skit in light of recent events.
posted by Flunkie at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


...it sure seems like victim-blaming bullshit to me. Oh, you'll be fine, just obey the law, be polite, and turn your music down, and you won't get your ass kicked by the police.

The thing is, Flunkie, it may be bullshit as a general proposition, but many black parents feel an obligation to tell their kids this sort of thing as a simple matter of survival. Hell, I'm white (well, as much as Sicilians can be truly white), but my step daughter is a person of color, and I worry about her all the time now. I guess I'm at least glad she's not a boy, because they're in even more danger.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2014


There seems to me to be a significant difference between "the talk", wherein one is taught to attempt to minimize their chances of being assaulted or otherwise unfairly treated, and Rock's minimizing you'll-be-fine-unless-it's-your-fault advice in the skit.
posted by Flunkie at 6:37 PM on December 1, 2014


I mean, it seems like the difference between a mother warning her daughter of various dangers that likely await her in the world versus somebody dismissively saying "Pfffffft, come on, just don't wear a skirt above your knee!"
posted by Flunkie at 6:43 PM on December 1, 2014


...it sure seems like victim-blaming bullshit to me. Oh, you'll be fine, just obey the law, be polite, and turn your music down, and you won't get your ass kicked by the police.

Sneaking in his subversiveness, Rock says you probably won't get your ass kicked by the police. Probably.

Moreover, the irony of "get a white friend" is probably lost on the cretins trying to link this bit to Ferguson.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:50 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'll shut up about this after this comment, but that seems like a very charitable reading in the face of things like "just don't murder people" and "if you hop a turnstile you'll just get a talking-to unless you've got a loaded gun in which case you deserve to get your ass kicked".
posted by Flunkie at 6:53 PM on December 1, 2014


I believe Rock has stated that he will never perform the Niggas-vs-Black-People routine again, basically because racists liked it too much.
posted by leopard at 7:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow. Now I have to see Lost in Translation again.

The movie always seemed to me to be in bad taste, although it does capture *perfectly* what one *perceives* to be reality when in Japan for the first time. A great representation of graceless, arrogant, clueless, entitled foreigners who, after about 3 months in-country, start to fucking complain and complain.
posted by Nevin at 9:14 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Doktor Zed: "Moreover, the irony of "get a white friend" is probably lost on the cretins trying to link this bit to Ferguson."
Dave Chappelle: why black people hang out with white dudes.
posted by brokkr at 1:53 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh god Reason Magazine picked out the one part of this interview that agrees with their libertarian worldview, the part where Chris Rock talks about not playing colleges because students are too easily offended. And now all my privileged white dude Facebook social graph friends are proudly posting it saying "see, even this black guy is annoyed by political correctness". Is it too much to hope some of the folks reading Reason will click through to the full interview and get challenged by all the other stuff Chris Rock drops?
posted by Nelson at 4:14 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]




School of Rock (with Rembert Browne from Grantland)
posted by box at 10:03 AM on December 3, 2014


I guess he's going to be doing a bunch of these sorts of things on the promo circuit for his movie. Here's one from Rolling Stone
posted by wabbittwax at 4:46 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here is an essay he wrote about race and Hollywood in The Hollywood Reporter.
posted by downtohisturtles at 6:31 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


lol

I don't care if I have to play a whip, I'm going to be in a Steve McQueen movie.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:53 PM on December 3, 2014


I remember when they were doing Starsky & Hutch, and my manager was like, "We might be able to get you the part of Huggy Bear," which eventually went to Snoop Dogg. I was like: "Do you understand that when my brother and I watched Starsky & Hutch growing up, I would play Starsky and he would play Hutch? I don't want to play f—ing Huggy Bear. This is not a historical drama. This is not Thomas Jefferson. It's a movie based on a shitty TV show, it can be anybody. Who cares. If they want me to play Starsky or Hutch, or even the bad guy, I'm down. But Huggy Bear?"
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:03 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


From that Hollywood Reporter article:
I would have had to have three two-hour meetings explaining that black people also read The New York Times.
I LOLed at that!
posted by jillithd at 6:32 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was amazing. Really, really insightful, topical, and just so concise and pithy and on fire and...yeah. I see we're all pretty much gushing over this, aren't we? With good reason. Chris Rock nailed this interview. Blew the doors off.

Lots of great pull quotes, and do many already pointed to in this thread, but I felt this one deserved some attention, too:
People thinking you’re dumb is an advantage. Obama started as a genius. It’s like, What? I’ve got to keep doing that? That’s hard to do! So it’s not that Obama’s disappointing. It’s just his best album might have been his first album.

I'm continually impressed that Chris Rock keeps living up to that expectation we have of him. He's older than I am (not by much, but still), he's rich, he could be resting on his laurels. He could easily have grown out of touch once he acquired some wealth; lots of people do. Jerry Seinfeld, for instance, strikes me as someone who just cannot relate to those less privileged than he has become by virtue of his comedic success.

But Chris Rock is on top of the world, too, and yet he stays in touch with it at the same time. He's constantly striving to do better, too; he practices his craft and hones it to a sharp edge. All that hard work makes it look so natural and spontaneous that his humor sneaks up on you. Until he throws in a particularly on-point edgy reference, like how he's not just ready for a woman president, which would be singular enough, but even a woman talk--show host, acknowledging what a challenge that would be, something we've discussed recently here on Mefi. And here in his latest interview, on-point edgy observations like that come lightning fast and furious, one after the other.

He's not only living up to the promise of his first album, he just keep right on getting better. He still has that best album in him.
posted by misha at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2014


Summary: This article has led me to question and break open my long-standing misguided impression of Chris Rock, (mostly based on a low-level pop-culture exposure to his work).

I see it's definitely time to start looking at his work properly and giving him the attention he deserves. Thanks for posting.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 3:58 AM on December 9, 2014


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