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On not sucking mid-career and a batch of good Chris Rock interviews

Dec 13, 2012
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On not sucking mid-career and a batch of good Chris Rock interviews

These days I find myself drawn to reading the thoughts of people who are mid-career—not at the end of their careers, and not at the beginning, but in the middle, because I feel like that’s the period where you really have to keep up your stamina, keep chugging, keep working. You’re not necessarily hungry anymore — you might have a nice house, nice wife, couple of kids, a decent fan base, etc. People are over the excitement about your rise, and people aren’t splicing together the kiss-ass retrospective clip reels, either. Your best work may be behind you, may be in front of you, but you just don’t know. (Maybe this is always true.) I do this because, being not at starting line, but a few meters down the track, I’m just looking in awe at these people who keep running the marathon without burning out. (Not sure why my lazy, non-runner ass is using a running metaphor, but hey…)

Chris Rock strikes me as a mid-career guy who has his shit together, and whenever he has an interview published, I try to read it.

Judd Apatow interviewed him for the Vanity Fair comedy issue:

Was it more fun when you first started? If so, what the fuck are we supposed to do now?

Yes, it was more fun. First of all, you had three goals: (1) To get good at comedy. (2) To make money from comedy. And (3) to get laid from comedy. What do we do now? Well, people seem to think we’re good. We have money. We’re married, so the whole working to get laid thing is over. Sad to say, but we work now to maintain our lifestyles, to not suck, and to avoid Celebrity Apprentice.

In his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, he talked about hanging out with his grandfather preacher:

I used to watch him write his sermons. He writes his sermons pretty much the same way I write my act. He would never write the exact sermon. He’d always write the bullet points, whatever would hit him, and he would write it when he was driving. And I probably come up with half of my standup when I’m driving…His preaching, it’s weird, it’s not a lot different than my style on stage…

When you grow up with a preacher, it’s almost like- it’s like seeing a magician stuff the rabbit in his side jacket. Like, I knew all the tricks… I don’t think he thought of it as tricks, but every job becomes a job, and you figure out shortcuts and you figure out, you know, ways around things…

A good sermon’s always great… these guys, they’re always - they have this task of coming up with a new - with new material every week. I like how a preacher can talk about one thing for an hour and 10 minutes. I keep trying to figure out how I can do that in stand-up. So, how I can, like, OK, how can I just be funny about, you know, jealousy? You know, a preacher will pick a topic and they’ll run with it for the whole sermon, like, and, you know, take you on a ride talking about literally one thing. And I just love that style. So I’m always - I’ve always been trying to figure out how do I do that in stand-up.

In this NYTimes Q&A, he talks about the itch to get back into comedy clubs (“I haven’t done any dirty work in a while”), but the near-impossible task of “workshopping” in the digital era:

When you’re workshopping it, a lot of stuff is bumpy and awkward. Especially when you’re working on the edge, you’re going to offend. A guy like Tosh, he’s at the Laugh Factory. He’s making no money. He’s essentially in the gym. You’re mad at Ray Leonard because he’s not in shape, in the gym? That’s what the gym’s for. The sad thing, with all this taping and stuff, no one’s going to do stand-up. And every big stand-up I talk to says: “How do I work out new material? Where can you go, if I have a half an idea and then it’s on the Internet next week?” Just look at some of my material. You can’t imagine how rough it was and how unfunny and how sexist or racist it might have seemed. “Niggas vs. Black People” probably took me six months to get that thing right. You know how racist that thing was a week in? That’s not to be seen by anybody.

Filed under: Chris Rock

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  3. ei-be said: Awesome topic
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