Chris Rock talks His New Tour and Starting Over
After a bitter divorce, and frustrated with Hollywood, Chris Rock wondered if he could still kill – so he’s spending a year on the road finding out.
Last October, Chris Rock drove from his New Jersey home to Greenwich Village’s Comedy Cellar and slipped inside undetected. The Comedy Cellar charges patrons $24 to see anonymous comics, with the unspoken tease that you might see Louis C.K. or Amy Schumer working on new material. Tonight was no different. The patrons sipped away their drink minimums and endured unknowns sprinkled with knowns – both Judd Apatow and Dave Attell did sets. Then the MC announced Rock. The audience went silent for a moment before jumping up in a roar as Rock, in jeans and a T-shirt, took the stage.
He hadn’t been seen much on the stand-up scene in a while; he’d spent his past few years starring in movies both sky-high (Top Five, which he wrote and directed) and crawl-space low (co-starring in Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups). There had been a turn as Oscar host in 2016 – the year of no black nominees. In fact, much of what the Comedy Cellar crowd had recently read about Rock was regarding his divorce from Malaak Compton-Rock after 18 years of marriage. Every divorce is unhappy in its own specific way, and Rock’s was no different. There were claims that Malaak kept Chris from their two daughters, Lola and Zahra, a charge she vehemently denied. After a tense two years of negotiations, the divorce became final in August.
That night, Chris Rock was still a wound that had not been cauterized. At 52, he somehow doesn’t look much different from when he played crack-addled Pookie in New Jack City exactly half his life ago. Still reed-thin, he smiled with perfect teeth – the one cosmetic change from his early days – and paced the claustrophobic stage for a few seconds. He then began describing how much his ex now hated him.