Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
NEW YORK - When Chris Rock walks out in front of about 20000 people tonight at Madison Square Garden he will be celebrating both New Year's Eve and the kick-off of his six-month international No Apologiestour.
And no one will be surprised when he gets his first laugh.
He is, after all, Chris Rock, and if he is not the funniest man alive then the other guy is doing a good job of hiding.
Because he has been on the top of the comic heap so long, it is easy to assume that Rock can make that whole big room shake with convulsive laughter because he was born that way.
Like Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton, he seems genetically predisposed to do precisely what he does. Small, fierce, a human chain-saw that can knock down almost anything, he sees convention and shreds it.
But for Rock, being gifted is really just about doing the things that make it look easy.
The least surprised person when that first laugh starts and then moves in a wave all the way up to the cheap seats will be Rock. For months he has been piecing together his act in clubs in New Jersey, New York, Florida and Las Vegas. Comedy bit by comedy bit, he has built two hours of material one minute at a time, culling the belly laughs from the bombs.
"You got to realise, I've been working on my act probably since around April, March," he said. "I am ready."
Maybe people - even New Yorkers - are inclined to laugh at a guy who has one of the few truly funny shows on TV, Everybody Hates Chris; who directed and is the co-writer of I Think I Love My Wife, a funny-enough feature film that came out this year; and who did some voice work as a mosquito in Bee Movie for his pal Jerry Seinfeld.
Rock might be at the height of his powers, but his rise was more meat and taters than meteoric. After years of grinding out stand-up for nothing, followed by an indifferent run as a regular on Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1993 and a regular guest spot onIn Living Color, he came out in 1996 with Bring the Pain on HBO.
Rock does not believe all that success comes with him when he takes the stage. For him the 18 warm-up shows he did at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, preparing for the tour, are a lot more important than his three Emmys.
"He knows that they are going to give him that first laugh because of who he is," said Vinnie Brand, the owner of the Stress Factory. "But he came out here and worked his material, over and over, cutting and trimming, until by the last show you could not believe what he had put together. He still has that hunger to be a great stand-up comedian, no matter what his name is."
Or as Rock put it: "Maybe for about three minutes after I walk on stage they're into my resume."
He is not a physical comedian. He prefers to use his voice and ferocious eye contact to master a room. He often steps to the edge of the stage as pure id, giving voice to things that we secretly think about, say, Michael Jackson, and saying them aloud.
His acute social observation is matched by a willingness just to say it: "Every town has the same two malls: the one white people go to and the one white people used to go to."
Rock's office is a working space, not some kind of ego gymnasium. The biggest picture in the room is not a grip-and-grin of himself but a portrait of Woody Allen. He recently returned from a long trip to India for his next movie, which he is producing and starring in: Good Hair, a docu-comedy about the culture of black-hair shows and salons.
Rock is not unfriendly, but he saves his comic persona for the stage and treats an interview as exactly what it is. He is thoughtful, careful and not intent on finding the funny in everything, with the blazing smile that is something of a trademark tucked away for a time when there is something to laugh about.
Anybody who has done stand-up, it was suggested to him, will tell you it is a fight that requires a bit of the warrior mentality.
"I think warrior is overstating it a bit in this time of war."
Rock, 42, has done thousands of interviews and is not content to accept the nomenclature that is handed to him. He complains about nothing and is nobody's victim. The responsibility, as he sees it, is all his, here and on the stage. The audience is there for the winning, but it takes work.
"When you get up there that first time and you don't do well, you're basically hearing 'No'," he said. "How are you going to approach this 'No'? Are you going to respect it and put the blame on yourself and improve who you are, or are you going to blame the audience like an idiot?
"It's never their fault," he said. "No matter how late it is, no matter how much they did or didn't drink, no matter what the sound system is like, no matter how hot the building is or how cold the building is, it ain't the crowd's fault. You want to get up there, you want to be a good boy, you want to headline, that's what you have to go in there with."
Rock watched Eddie Murphy take over the Garden many years ago, and he has not forgotten.
"There were moments you could hear a pin drop, and that's really what it's all about," he said. "Anybody can just say stuff and get people to scream. If you're really good, you can get them to be quiet. Quiet is true ownership of the room."
Rock used to have a hilarious bit about a black man running for president, and he wrote, directed and starred in a film, Head of State, that found plenty of fodder in the scenario. Now Barack Obama is running statistically even or better with Hillary Rodham Clinton in Iowa and beyond.
"You can't say he's not a sign," Rock said. He once covered the Iowa caucuses for Comedy Central but has resisted the urge to bend his tour around a few Iowa dates this time around.
"I believe in real wins. But it's neck and neck against a woman whose husband was the president, and he's a black man that no one knew a couple years ago. That is an unbelievable achievement. I love Hillary Clinton, but to me she is the Democrat's version of George Bush: someone who is running, and the only reason you know who this person is is because of her name."
Rock, who has made a career out of speaking the unspeakable, decided to go there and then some.
"She has much more in common with George Bush Jnr than she does with Oprah Winfrey. Not that there is anything wrong with having a name. My kids are going to have my name, but their path is going to be easier. That's just what it is."
This interview took place just before Christmas, and the family named Rock was about to grow. He and his wife, Malaak Compton, have two daughters, Lola, five, and Zahra, three.
"They sent Santa some letters, and they both wanted turtles," he said. "They really wanted a tortoise, but tortoises grow. But hey, my babies want turtles, they get turtles." - New York Times