Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    I Know We Love Chris

    Chris Rock is the funniest man in America, the globe and the universe. His political commentary mixed with vicious comedy has given him a rightful spot with icons like Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison and other button-pushing comedians of yesteryear. Nearly every black person (and many whites) in America have a Chris Rock phrase as part of their daily repertoire. Whether it’s about Michael Jackson (Another kid? Another fuckin’ kid?), dating (you don’t meet them, you meet their representative!) or race (cracka ass cracka!)—Rock’s routine is part of the American lexicon.

    Rock’s new film, which he also directs, I Think I Love My Wife, is a step into another direction of his twenty-year career, which successfully includes stand-up, HBO talk show and the popular television series Everybody Hates Chris. In this interview an always animated Chris Rock discusses the new film, being edgy and married life--but still being candid about the divorce rumors that spawned in November. All of the things to let us know we are still in love with the smart-ass of comedy.

    When watching I Think I Love My Wife, you can't help but think this is your life--marriage and kids.
    Chris: It’s a lot of people's lives, it’s not like my special life. Yeah, I definitely relate to the character, I've been married 10 years, I have two kids, live in the suburbs, I commute to the city, all that stuff—it pretty much stops there.

    Are you bored?
    Chris: I'm an entertainer, I bore easy.

    How do you keep it fresh—what's the secret?
    Chris: You just go home. [Laughs]

    What is the sense of autobiography in the film? When you talk about the wandering eye—is there anything in particular to this story that you relate to as a married man?
    Chris: You know, I'm a guy, any guy—everybody sees attractive people. Gay, straight, whatever! You see attractive people every day. You notice them and you keep it moving. Is it autobiographical? No, but who knows later on. I don't think when Woody Allen did Manhattan he saw, you know, what history was going to present! [Laughs]

    The recent real-life parallels that were reported in November—has that smoothed over?
    Chris: Oh, it's nothing, it's all rumor…we know Britney cut her hair! [Laughs] But, it's a rumor that she's crazy. You cut your hair; you're not crazy, right? [Laughs]

    Is it possible when you're married to have female friends?
    Chris: I have a couple. I think it's impossible to have new female friends.

    How did casting the Nikki role come about?
    Chris: Yeah, we met a bunch of actresses, and I wanted to get somebody fresh. I think there’s certain people out there that soon as you see their name, or see their face, you assume a movie is going to be bad. So, I had to eliminate them—get them of the list. [Laughs] I worked with Kerry before in this movie Bad Company, but that was like another lifetime ago…it was like I worked with another girl. After I got rid of all the usual suspects I wanted the best actress. Kerry is the best actress, by far, and she's gorgeous. She’s sneaky fine! I’m friends with Michael Irving, the football player—I told him Kerry Washington is in the movie he said, “Oh she’s sneaky fine! Watching Ray for the fourth time I just realized how fine she was—just snuck up on me!”

    With the TV show and even this movie people are still saying you're still the funniest man in America, but your projects are more family-oriented and you’ve gotten softer over the years. What’s your response when people say you’ve toned down?
    Chris: I hope I get softer. [Laughs] Hey man, Prince is singing at the Superbowl! Hopefully you evolve, I can’t be the guy I was 20 years ago.

    You don't want to say that you’re edgy?
    Chris: I was only edgy compared to other things. I was always just me. What I did wasn't like I was ever sitting there—I'm going to be edgy! I was only edgy because you watched Paul Reiser before me or something. He's not, not edgy he's just Paul and I'm not edgy, I’m just Chris.

    You went to Africa recently— what did you like about it?
    Chris: Ummm…black people. [Laughs] I went with Oprah; I went to Oprah’s school over there that was kind of cool.

    What was that like?
    Chris: Ummm…it was a lot like this movie! [Laughs] No—it was incredible. Africa was incredible. It was spiritual, it was amazing. I've been to some of the slums in Africa, and these girls—Oprah literally created heaven on earth for them. She's not giving them an education—they took it. They all chose to have good grades and work hard, despite being in such a dead-end situation. Please, I grew up in America and by the fourth grade I had checked out of school. I was like what the fuck is this—this is a waste of time! [Laughs] Oprah should be commended but so should these girls.

    You really had some interesting racial moments in the film. What made you decide to put that in there, or is that the way the black family is at a dinner table talking about Michael Jackson?
    Chris: I don't know, I never even thought about it as racial…I just thought about capturing the sense of—every other movie I've ever done has been based in some fantasy world and this one's really grounded in reality. If we sat here long enough we would all eventually start talking about Michael Jackson—black or white, or whatever, he always comes up eventually. [Laughs]

    I saw the movie with some women and they were not laughing. They seemed to take offense to some of the characterizations in the film. Have you heard anything from female viewers?
    Chris: It's like my stand-up, you know, some jokes you love, some jokes are like--fuck him. I wanted that type of movie experience. I want people arguing when it's over— he should be with Nikki, no, he should be with the wife. That's what I was going for in this movie. There's things in it that didn't test well that I just kept in because I thought it was a better movie.

    What about the ending?
    Chris: The ending tested high.

    But that's not based in reality.
    Chris: Hey, I mean, I'm no Woody Allen, as we say on the east side of Manhattan. Annie Hall is based in reality. There's jokes and there's departures from the reality, but the movie is based in reality. There's departures here and there, but the story—everything that happens with the wife, everything that happens with Nikki.

    Will you ever have a chance to do the Oscar hosting again?
    Chris: I had fun doing the Oscars. I’d love to do it again; if they call, I’ll pick up the phone.

    How do you think Ellen did?
    Chris: I thought she did great—she should be the host every year.

    Where do you go from here?
    Chris: I don't know. Hopefully I can build on this. I don't want to go back.

    Do you want to be Chris Rock as an actor playing “real guys” not just the funny guy?
    Chris: Yeah, I think I’m funniest as a real guy. That's the discovery I made through this movie. I like playing a grown-up. I think most guys play guys that won't grow up. I think my comedy comes from being a grown-up.

    A few years ago when you were on Oprah, I think it was, you jokingly said, “My movies don't do well.” Were you thinking about that when you went in to do this movie?
    Chris: It's gotta cross your mind. But, it's weird, I didn’t think about it in the sense—it was kind of freeing in a sense. It wasn't even that my movies haven't done well. Some of them have done well, they were not artistically to the level of my stand-up, the TV show or the other shows, you know, like to the things I've done that were good. That's what I really meant. My stand-up, they're not movies, so there's no number in front of them. TV shows on the CW, they're considered success. Going into this movie I absolutely was not thinking about a box office number. I was just thinking about okay, how do I fit in? How do I make the movie that is perfect for me? When I watch something like Bad Santa or Borat—these guys have made movies that really fit their persona. It's like okay, the suit fits, I need a tailor-made Chris Rock movie.

    What are you going to do next?
    Chris: Okay, here's what I'm probably going to do if I can raise the money—I’m going to do a documentary on the Brooner Brothers hair show out of Atlanta, that's why I’m working on.

    It’s a huge event?
    Chris: It is bigger than the Super Bowl. It's nothing but hairdressers.

    It's very gay?
    Chris: It's really gay, but I'm not trying to make fun of anybody. It's black hairdressers so it's very entrepreneurial. There's something really interesting about those people, and it's a lot of Asian involvement too—all the products and who makes money off the stuff. Just the history of black hair, Madame CJ Walker, all the money that my people spend on their hair—people who make thirty grand a year, spending seven grand on their hair, it's just insane.

    Documentary not a comedy?
    Chris: There’ll be some humor in it, but absolutely will not make fun of anybody. If you watch all the old remotes I used to do on my show I could be talking to a guy with a bone in his nose, literally, in and never mention it—I do not make fun of people. It’s a saying we used to have on the show--make fun of what people do, not what they are.

    Would you go back to stand-up?
    Chris: I want to go back, hopefully in September. Hopefully—I won’t put dates out; never put your dates out till you got your act.

    You want to be Chris Rock as an actor playing “real guys” not just funny guys?
    Chris: Yeah, I think I’m funniest as a real guy. That's the discovery I made through this movie. I like playing a grown-up. I think most guys play guys that won't grow up. I think my comedy comes from being a grown-up.

    I Think I Love My Wife is in theatres now.



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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 3 comments

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