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23 Times Chris Rock Was A Comedy Genius

Comedy isn't a game for the conservative, but Chris Rock has built a career on taking it to the next level. His comedy is confrontational and controversial; just listen to his standup and you'll regularly hear people in the audience gasping in offended disbelief while others laugh uncontrollably. A white man could never repeat most of his best bits without getting canceled, or at least beat up afterward. His racially charged, male-centric humor makes you laugh and feel squeamish at the same time.

Chris Rock is also one of the greatest comedians of the last few decades. His standup is full of the raw edginess of Richard Pryor, yet he also voices a beloved zebra in a kids film series ("Madagascar") or plays a sensitive artist ("Top Five"). He was a cast member and host of "Saturday Night Live," was on "In Living Color," and even had his own comedy show. Rock is brilliant when reading or writing a script, ad-libbing, or telling jokes on stage; he's also hilarious just when he's getting interviewed. In fact, to narrow it down to 23 moments was a bit difficult for a top-10 comedy legend like Chris Rock. But we'll give it a go.

Bullet control

Yes, gun control is a serious issue. When Rock first did this bit, the debate wasn't as heated and politically divisive as it is now, nor school shootings as prevalent. In 1999's "Bigger and Blacker" — released just a few months after the Columbine massacre rocked the nation — Rock suggests we don't need to control guns, we just need to control bullets by charging $5,000 per bullet. That way, there'd never be any innocent bystanders, and even direct violence would be curbed. "'Man, I would blow your f***ng head off...if I could afford it,'" he says, imitating a shooter. "'I'm gonna get me another job, I'm going to start saving some money, and you're a dead man. You'd better hope I can't get no bullets on layaway.'"

I hate married friends

Chris Rock has aired his grievances with the institution of marriage often over the years. In his 2004 standup "Never Scared," Rock has a lot to say about marriage: about the boredom, about how there's no such thing as a soulmate, so on. Possibly his funniest observation is about hanging out with other married couples when the women bring together their men and they're all supposed to just become friends. Even better, he describes how boring these meetings are, though he suggests a way to cure it: "Whenever I go out with other married couples, I like to bring along a single crackhead. Just spicin' up the activities. 'Come on, tell us some of your cracky tales.'"

I've never liked rich kids and now my kids are rich

Chris Rock has talked plenty of times about his working-class upbringing; it even became an 88-episode TV series. As Rock said to David Letterman in a 2014 interview, "Who's got it better than our kids Dave? Rich bast***s. I have never liked rich kids in my life and now two of them are mine, Dave." He goes on to say he has nothing in common with his rich kids ("When they watch 'Different Strokes,' they take Mr. Drummond's side"). He'd first brought this bit out in a 2008 interview with Jonathan Ross when he joked about how he never really liked rich kids so now he hates his own kids.

Thoughts on policing

Most people don't remember that Chris Rock had a show, especially since it only ran for 3 seasons and ended over 21 years ago. This talk show with comedy skits and music acts, though, also had some true comedy gems, many of them starring Rock. One was "How to Not Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police" — a skit that seems to have only become more relevant with time. This skit contains such great advice as, "If you jump a subway turnstile, you might just get off with a warning from the police. But if you jump a turnstile carrying a loaded gun and smoking a joint, then maybe you need your ass kicked."

How he differs from Kristen Stewart

Rock is absolutely phenomenal whenever he's on a talk show playing off the other guests — especially if they perhaps take themselves a bit more seriously than Rock. This happened when he and Kristen Stewart were on The Graham Norton Show together during the twilight of Stewart's "Twilight" days. Norton asks her how it is now that she's a big enough star that she can get things made. She responds that she really likes to fight for jobs and doesn't like this new turn. Rock's face says everything, though, when she asks him, "You know what I mean?" 

He responds, "I don't know what the hell you're talking about." As the audience laughs, he continues, "Give me the job. I don't care if everybody's better than me. ... 'But the part's for a Mexican.' 'Yeahhh?'" He's just saying out loud what most people think when they see a successful person saying, "I don't like how easy it's gotten for me and wish it were still hard."

Richest people in my neighborhood

In Chris Rock's HBO special "Kill the Messenger," Chris Rock has a bit that does such a good job encapsulating inequality that it spawned some serious analysis. He explains that he lives in a very nice New Jersey neighborhood that counts among its residents only four Black people: him, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, and Eddie Murphy. Everybody cheers until he explains his Black neighbors are, respectively, the most successful R&B singer, rapper, and comedian around. "You know what the white man that lives next to me does for a living? He's a dentist." This is the brilliance behind Rock's comedy. He can make you laugh while making a cutting social critique. A Black man has to literally be the best at what he does to live alongside a white man who's simply good at his somewhat mundane job.

Celebrating Pootie Tang's silent album

There are cult films, and then there's "Pootie Tang." With a cast that runs from pre-"Curb Your Enthusiasm" J.B. Smoove to Wanda Sykes and Jennifer Coolidge to Robert Vaughn, it's a comedy lover's comedy. Chris Rock has only a supporting role (actually, he has a few supporting roles), though the character made his premiere on "The Chris Rock Show," so some kudos have to go to him for that. While funny moments abound, the release of Pootie's silent song is one of the funniest. 

In this scene, Rock plays a radio DJ feeling the song, intercut with a kid listening to it rapt at home and a short-order cook dancing to the silence. Rock's DJ slowly rises to shocked appreciation. He eventually trashes the booth, screaming "Pootie Too Good." This is a single moment that defines the absurdist cult comedy.

Cheap Pete

With his first appearance on "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," Chris Rock's Cheap Pete is truly a great cheapskate. In the Wayans Brothers' "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," he tries to order a single rib and asks if he can get some soda poured into his hand for 10 cents. When he has to pay, he asks for change for a $100, prompting the cook, played by Isaac Hayes, to attempt to throttle him. 

Cheap Pete goes on to be a fantastic recurring character on "In Living Color," another Wayans Brothers production. It's tough to pick just one great moment, but a classic is when he asks Tommy Davidson, the bartender in an "In Living Color" skit, how much a virgin daiquiri costs. Davidson replies it's $2.50. Rock flatly intones, "$2.50, good lawd. How 'bout I give you 30 cents you give me a Kool-Aid with six kids."

There's no food allergies in Rwanda

In Chris Rock's 1996 special "Bring the Pain," he has a great bit about how America has too much food. He starts off making fun of people who say, "Red meat'll kill ya." If you're fortunate enough to have a steak, he goes on to explain, you eat it. He continues by saying that America has too much food. "We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic to s***. You think anyone in Rwanda's got a f***ing lactose intolerance?!" Though yes, we do understand that food allergies aren't due to an overabundance of food. At least nobody has proven that. Yet.

He was Franklin from Peanuts

In a vintage SNL Weekend Update from the 1992 season opener, Chris Rock talks about how the first day of school was always rough because he was the only Black kid in an all-white school — just like Franklin from "Peanuts," he muses. This leads him to observe that Franklin was on the cartoon for 25 years and had not one line. Everybody has their thing, Rock points out: "Linus got the blanket, Lucy's a b***h, Schroeder plays the piano, Peppermint Patty's a lesbian. Everybody got their thing except Franklin. Come on, give him a Jamaican accent or something!" It should be added that Franklin's presence in the original comic strip is considered a landmark of inclusion, but Rock's point stands. 

Two malls

In 1996, Chris Rock made a triumphant return to SNL as a host with a monologue that begins on the topic of malls. He goes on to explain every town has two malls: "The white mall, and the mall white people used to go to. ... There ain't nothing in the Black mall but sneakers and baby clothes." He then goes on to discuss Bill Clinton, who has real problems: "Running out of money, wife's a pain in the ass, all his friends are going to jail. I know Bill Clinton. I am Bill Clinton." After a middling SNL career, his returns have been legendary.

D**k in a glass case

In his 1996 "Bring the Pain" HBO special, he makes fun of how women have platonic friends. Men don't have platonic friends, he adds, they have women they haven't slept with yet. He goes on to add that for a woman, that friendship isn't fully platonic. "They keep the platonic friends forever. Why? Because you never know," he says. "You know what a platonic friend is to a woman? It's like a d**k in a glass case. In case of emergency, break open glass." This bit is not to be confused with the later Lonely Island hit song, "D**k in a Box."

Rufus the 13th apostle

In "Dogma," Kevin Smith's irreverent satire about Christianity, Chris Rock plays Rufus and has a great rant about how he wasn't mentioned in the Bible despite being the 13th apostle. The reason for his omission? He's a Black man. Jesus was Black too, he adds, though they glossed over that (and since He was the son of God, He got a pass). Rufus says he was trying to explain that in Antioch before he got stoned to death. Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) asks if he was martyred. "That's one way to put it. Another way is that I was bludgeoned to s**t by big f***ing rocks," Rufus replies. He continues with, "A Black man can steal your stereo but he can't be your savior." 

Boogery coffee

Following up his fantastic turn as Rufus in "Dogma," Rock appears in Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," though only briefly. He plays Chaka Luther King, an angry Black director making a comic book movie surrounded by an all-white crew and actors. He thinks they're out to get and undermine him because he's a Black man making it in a white game. As he says to his PA after asking the kid if he put boogers in the director's coffee, "It must piss you off to see a Black man directing a big production like this. You went to film school. Does your daddy know that you give a n***a his coffee? It would kill him." Then he asks the kid to taste the coffee, "taste that booger flavor, I know it's in there."

Way past Robitussin

Chris Rock has long talked about his broke childhood. In "Bigger and Blacker," he explains how they had no money or insurance to cover medical care. In Rock's family, you couldn't go to the hospital until you were "way past Robitussin." As he says, that was his family's cure for everything. "'Daddy I got asthma.' 'Robitussin.' 'I got cancer.' 'Robitussin.' I broke my leg, Daddy poured Robitussin on it. 'Yeah boy, let that 'Tussin get in there boy.'" And if you run out of 'Tussin, what then? As Daddy says, "'Put some water in the jar, mo' Tussin.'" His relationship with his Dad would be fictionalized further in his series "Everybody Hates Chris."

Black people vs. N****z

Here's a standup bit that white people will never be able to even think about out loud. It has to be included because it's the type of courageously confrontational stuff that only comedy legends attempt. In this bit from 1996's "Bring the Pain," he explains how Black people keep being dragged down by the other subset of Black people who live a life of crime and stupid actions. He says, "I wish they let me join the Ku Klux Klan." It's really tough to get into this one without being able to say the punchline, but Rock does talk about how the n****z take credit for basic stuff, stuff like "'I take care of my kids.' 'You're supposed to ya dumb...'" and "'I ain't never been to jail' 'Whatchu want, a cookie?'" A comedy touchstone, (Barak Obama mentioned it in a speech about Black fatherhood), you have to wonder if he could deliver such a bit in the current climate.

Orenthal the bus-driving murderer

Nat X is one of Chris Rock's few recurring SNL characters, and one of his best segments is really just a rehash of Rock's standup. In that set, Rock talks about O.J. Simpson — specifically how O.J. got acquitted and Rock hasn't seen "white people that mad since they canceled 'M*A*S*H.'" Rock further noted that it only played out how it did because O.J. was rich and famous. "If O.J. drove a bus, he wouldn't even be O.J. He'd be Orenthal, the bus-driving murderer." That Nat X session from 1996, which marks the first SNL he hosted since leaving the show, ends with Nat pointing out that Jesse Jackson was running for president and now he's playing a crackhead on "New York Undercover." Then "Jesse" himself shows up.

N***a can't be fired for calling a n***g a n***a

"Top Five" is a movie Chris Rock wrote and directed full of seemingly all the funniest Black comedians in the game, and even several funny white folks. The movie, as you can imagine, is full of absolutely fall-down-laughing scenes and arguably is a sign of his comedy genius from start to finish. One of the best scenes involves Rock talking to his agent, played by Kevin Hart. Hart's character discusses a past occasion in which he told Rock's character not to do a movie, even dropping the N-word to show how serious he was that Rock had to drop the role. Hart claims the incident almost got him fired. Rock responds, "A n***a can't be fired for calling a n***g a n***a," leading to a hilarious bit of wordplay. 

I was picked after the white kids

In the remake of "The Longest Yard," Chris Rock plays a team manager of sorts to Adam Sandler's coach pulling together a football team to play the guards. When Sandler meets Rock and asks him if he played football, Rock says, "I suck so bad, they used to pick me after the white kids." He then explains he can get drugs, including Prozac, since he knows the white boys are so depressed. He can't really understand why they're sad, though: "Hey, you're white, smile." Then he tells Sandler how he can also get them McDonald's in the joint, and the love of a beautiful woman — though drop the beautiful, and the woman, part.

The cellphone conspiracy

Possibly one of the greatest random comedy pairings of all time is Joe Pesci and Chris Rock in "Lethal Weapon 4." When they get started on conspiracy theories about cellphones (hey, it was 1998, handheld cellphones were still a relatively new technology), it's pure manic gold. After ranting back and forth about service, Rock says they keep making them smaller so you lose them. "I never lost my mother's phone. Took you 2 hours to make a damn long distance call... I never lost my sport Illustrated Swimsuit phone..." and it continues back and forth like this for about two solid minutes of pure comedic gold.

I'd shake the sh** out of one

Chris Rock got into some hot water a few years back for a bit that seemed to defend Ray Rice and Chris Brown. In 1996's "Bring the Pain," he lays out his whole philosophy on domestic abuse: "You know what they say, 'There's no reason to ever hit a woman.' ... There's a reason to hit everybody. You just don't do it. Sh**, there's a reason to kick an old man down a flight of stairs. You just don't do it. Ain't nobody above an ass-whooping."

He goes on to explain that there are some people bigger than him he just checks his tone around, though women will say or do whatever they want to a bigger man they know won't hit them. As Rock finishes, "I would never hit a woman, nah, but I'd shake the sh** out of one."

Not going home to Connecticut

Again, Chris Rock is gold on talk shows, and he and Letterman really seem to have a special bond. In a 2010 appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman," the host has a hoarse voice. Rock uses it to give him a jab about the scandal that was hitting Letterman's life at that point. He asks why Letterman's doing the show since he's rich and could take a few days off if he's sick. "Wife still mad at ya, ain't she? Why drive back to Connecticut to a mean woman? 'I may as well just stay here and do the show with no voice.' I love ya honey. I been there, Dave." "I do get sick on the road," Rock adds, "and if my wife is mad at me I add a few shows."

The only time white people can use the N-word

Chris Rock drops the N-bomb a lot in his comedy, which makes a lot of it unquotable by white people. In "Kill the Messenger," Chris Rock expounds on the only time white people can use the term, and it's highly specific. "If it's Christmas Eve and it's between 4:30 and 4:49 in the morning, if you white, and you on your way to Toys "R" Us to get your kid the last Transformer doll, and right before you walk into Toys "R" Us, some Black person runs up beside you, smacks you in the head with a brick, knocks you to the ground, stomps you in the face..." Chris Rock drags out this long beating that ends with the Black man peeing on the white man.

When he runs off, according to Rock, the white man can say "Somebody stop that n****r!" He even gives permission to say it for a month after that, though you need to carry the police report around as freedom papers of sorts. So theoretically, if you're white and that happens to you, for about a month you can do any Chris Rock bit.