Chris Rock is 47, rich, a suburban father of two daughters, and starring in his third family-friendly Madagascar movie, but he still thrums with the same indignant energy he had when he first stalked the stage in the stand-up special that made his name, Bring the Pain.
Arriving at a swanky suite at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel for his interview, he noted that he saw fewer and fewer black folks as he journeyed from his home in New Jersey to midtown Manhattan. “The closer I get to money, the fewer black people I see.”
Rock talked about a wide variety of subjects, including being a family man, how fame affects comedy, whether he would ever vote for Mitt Romney and if he still feels like an outsider in show business. (Subscribers can click for the print interview.)
Rock has been spreading his wings of late: he did a stint on Broadway in 2011 in The Motherf____ with the Hat and will be appearing in an independent film written and directed by Julie Delpy, 2 Days in New York, in which he plays her partner. It’s a role in which he actually has to be someone else, rather than Chris Rock. “There’s some downsides to being famous, which are not even worth mentioning. But to combat the bad sides of being famous, you really should take advantage of the good sides. The good sides are, you can use that fame to get projects you might not normally get.”
And in order to be able to do those, he makes movies like Madagascar 3. “It’s a good movie,” he says, but he acknowledges it’s also a payday. (He was persuaded of the merits of the animation genre after Shrek came out and he subsequently drove by Eddie Murphy’s new house.) Rock ad-libbed the movie’s signature line: “Afro circus polka dot polka dot,” to cheer up his daughter, who had come to the sound booth that day and was getting bored. “That’s what they pay me for. The four ad-libs a movie that actually work.”
He wants to go back on the road, but is trying to figure out how to prepare an act without people taping it at a club and putting it on the Internet. “Jokes rot. They’re not like songs. I always envy singers — Sting is always going to sing “Roxanne,”” he says. “But people want to hear new jokes. I’ve written jokes as good as “Roxanne,” I believe. But I can’t tell them again. And there’s no publishing. So. I play a zebra.”