Chris Rock: What I've Learnt

The SNL veteran and stand-up great on why comedians only get respect when they're serious, the difficulties of staying edgy and calling up Jerry Seinfeld for Top Five

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Twenty-five years after his Saturday Night Live debut, Chris Rock (now 50-years-old) is riding high on the success of his third directorial (and writing) effort, Top Five

Starring as Andre Allen, a fading comedian and alcoholic trying to turn his hand to the serious matter of the Hatian Revolution, Rock is joined by Rosario Dawson as an equally troubled journalist profiling Allen over a Woody Allen-esque 24 hours in New York. 

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To celebrate the film's release, Rock filled us in on what you learn from three decades in comedy.

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I don’t know if I’m still young enough to be the hip guy, but I’m not quite old enough to play some teenager's dad. I mean, I am actually old enough, but I guess I don’t look it. I’m in a weird, middle section age-wise right now.

If they did Starsky and Hutch tomorrow I'd probably still get the role of Huggy Bear.

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If you’re doing something edgy it takes a lot of attempts and honing to get the joke right. Nowadays you just don’t have the option of telling the same joke in different clubs until you get it right because someone’s filmed the first attempt that bombed.

Dave Chappelle banned cell phones at his gigs. Kevin Hart’s playing arenas and making people check their cellphones in beforehand. It’s hard, but that’s the future I guess.

I don’t know if audiences are more easily offended these days, its just that now we live in a society where everybody’s has a say through social media. That might be good for society, but I’m not sure it’s good for art.

Everybody’s a critic, but critics need things to be bad, the same way cops need crime. Critics are just trying to be heard and the only way to truly be heard is to be outraged. If people love something the noise level only goes up a few decibels, but if you say you hate something or are offended by it, everybody hears that.

All the comedians I started out with still work hard. Everyone does the occasional family film - you know, I’m the zebra from Madagascar

I can turn down certain movies or I could go and make a documentary about hair if I wanted to, because my living costs aren’t that high. If I had ten cars and a fifty thousand square foot house I probably couldn’t make an indie film like Top Five.

Everyone went crazy for Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher. He got nominated for an Oscar, but I don’t think he’s any better than he was in The 40 Year-Old Virgin. The only time he gets recognition is when he’s doing something serious. Eddie Murphy got nominated for Dream Girls, but most people say he’s better in Bowfinger.

If money is respect then comedians definitely get respect. Artistically speaking we get more respect as we get older. People are just now realising that Joan Rivers was a genius.

Jerry Seinfeld owed me, so I called him up and told him I wanted him to be in Top Five. He’d done some stuff with Louis CK and he'd had a good experience so he was up for it. You get a lot of bang for your buck with Seinfeld. He’s got a real corporate approach to things but he’s probably the best comedian I’ve ever been around.

Top Five is out now.

 

 

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