What about Eddie Murphy?
Ed, I haven’t seen Ed in a while. I probably still watch Delirious two or three times a year. Ed ain’t doing stand-up anymore. So if you’re 25, you’re like, “That’s the guy from Nutty Professor or Dr. Doolittle.” I’m not even saying kids. I mean, 25-year-olds.
Coming to America is my favorite movie of all time.
It’s on my top list. It’s probably the best Eddie Murphy performance in a movie. His acting is very underrated in that movie. The story is just so great. The supporting characters, everything feels right in that movie. It’s real Black, but it’s for everybody. It’s the blueprint. It’s like, this is how you do a Black movie.
What makes it a “Black” movie?
It’s real Black. But Eddie Murphy has this thing where he can cross over without [selling out]. What is Blacker than John Amos with two daughters in Queens? Just the character, an African prince. That shit is really Black, but the way they executed it was brilliant. Nutty Professor is another one. What’s Blacker than that family at the table? But at the same time, you have the family dynamic. They emphasized that there’s all these different characters in the family. That’s how real families are. We got loud people, quiet people and we’re all kinda all in it together. Nutty Professor is the Blackest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. But Eddie Murphy, he’s like an old-time performer. It’s all about satisfying multiple groups of people. Eddie is from a time where we only had nine or 15 channels on TV. And if you came up in that show business, you couldn’t be like some of these niche performers. You really had to make everybody laugh. It’s not enough to be good in the ’hood. If there’s only nine channels, there are no hood channels; so many people are going to be seeing me. All that to say is Eddie Murphy is from that era, and so am I.
We had this conversation before, and you’re really passionate about this topic.
I try to reach as many people as I can with what I do. When you’re making a movie, you can’t just try to ﬁll a void. You ultimately have to tell a story. That still has to be the ﬁrst thing you wanna do. ’Cause when it’s not, the audience at large feels it. And they want stories. Hey, I’m getting ready to do What to Expect. A white woman wrote the script. I want more Black movies. I wish that [Black] women would get involved in the production and the writing and directing of more of them. That’s what I wish. For Black movies anyway.
So you think there’s a space for the Black female writer right now? Like, the female Tyler Perry?
I think there’s an absolute space for it. I think there’s a need for it. Tyler Perry makes movies for women. I wouldn’t even say the female Tyler Perry. The real Tyler Perry. Not that there is anything wrong with him making the movies. Even he’ll probably tell you, you know a woman should probably be doing this. But he’s doing it, and he’s doing a great job at it.
Would you ever be in a Tyler Perry movie?
Hey, everything I get, I read the script. A lot of times I tell my agent to take the front page off the script. So I’m not prejudiced by who wrote it, especially when I’m reading a bunch of scripts, I don’t want the front page.
Yeah, but when you get to the page and there’s a heavyset grandmother coming down the stairs with a frying pan, then you may have a hint who wrote it. Speaking of which, that was a big thing, where Black comedians were being criticized for dressing up like women. How do you feel about that?
I mean, hey, lots of comedians dress up like women, not just Black. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Men in drag.
But it seems to be more of an issue with Black comics, no?
There was Mrs. Doubtﬁre. Sandler’s next movie is Jack and Jill. He plays his brother and sister. [The Black community] doesn’t have that many movies, so if there’s only four Black movies in a year and two of them star Black men in dresses, I could see how that would upset some people. But that’s a job for some people. Tyler Perry is great in a dress, but I don’t want to see Denzel or Will Smith in a dress. And I don’t think we’re in any danger of seeing that.
Speaking of Will Smith, his kids were winners at the BET Awards this year. I thought that must be hard to have your kids in the spotlight. Do you ever talk to your kids about what they want to do? Has there ever been any aspiration for them to do anything in entertainment?
Not really. My kids are so young. Kids say they want to do all sorts of things. I loved Karate Kid. And my younger daughter, my God, is obsessed with Willow’s “Whip My Hair.” But it’s nothing I wanna do with my kids right now. I want them to have as normal a childhood as they can have. If they want to get into something after they ﬁnish college, ﬁne, but right now, that’s just not me. I’m a big fan of Will and the kids, though. It works. They’re like the Baldwins.
Do you still hang out with the old SNL cast?
All the time. It’s no different than anybody else. You know we all go way back, over 20 years.
Speaking of hanging out, were you one of the lucky people to witness Watch the Throne being recorded? I recently went to a listening session and Jay-Z spoke about all of the different inﬂuences in the room during the recording. At one point, I think he named Russell Brand.
I heard Watch the Throne. I was around for the making of a few of [the songs]. You don’t want to hear that Russell Brand had a say on Watch the Throne, though. I don’t know. Hip-hop is like boxing. Its glory days have passed, but every now and then there’s a big ﬁght. Boxing is essentially dead, but we’ll all show up to a big ﬁght. Hip-hop is kinda like that.
What other hip-hop artists are you listening to?
Rick Ross. Lil Wayne. Rick Ross’ verse on the Kanye (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) album might be the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. I’m a big, big Rick Ross fan. Big Meech! I’m MC Hammer! But hip-hop is not where it was 10, 15 years ago. In a weird way, the basketball wives, those are the new stars. It seems like that kinda culture nowadays.
So reality shows are the new hip-hop?
I’ve heard more people talk about Jim Jones on [Love & Hip Hop] than I heard people talk about his records. These shows seem to have an impact on the culture. NeNe Leakes is as big as any female rapper. I remember I was at a hair show, me and Nia [Long] promoting Good Hair, and Keyshia Cole’s mother was there. And it was like me and Nia weren’t even there.
So what’s next for Chris Rock?
Just trying to keep my spot. Trying to keep up with Jay. Jay came out in ’96 with Reasonable Doubt. That same year, I did Bring the Pain. And I’m still here. There’s a lot of people that have fallen off. I don’t try to think about it. I just ask myself, have I been funny? Am I funny in this play? Can I be funny doing it? I don’t take any of these shots for granted. I get so much feedback from the Kanye skit “The Blame Game.” Same amount of feedback as the last movie I did. You never know what people are gonna respond to.