From the GQ archive: To mark his appearance on the cover of the GQ Comedy Special, and his Paul Smith stage wear, we’re revisiting this interview where the superstar stand-up riffs on groupies doing it by the book, Brooklyn’s mean streets and the perils of comics’ karaoke.
GQ: Do you read your press?
Chris Rock: If you’re a stand-up, the audience lets you know. You don’t need a critic to tell you people aren’t laughing. If you have a movie out, you can’t read every review or you’d lose your mind. Critics tend to watch movies by themselves, and you can’t watch something funny on your own. Comedy is a group activity, a verbal orgy.
What’s a Chris Rock groupie like?
I get smart girls who talk about writing. They come up to me and say, “You have a way with words – have you read King Leopold’s Ghost?” I’ll have the hottest girl in the world come up to me and give me a book. Twenty years in the business and no one has ever come up to me and said, “I want to f*** you.”
Can you recommend a good book?
I’m reading Deception by Philip Roth. It reminds me of the films of Éric Rohmer.
Who is overrated?
Me! I’m severely overrated. I’m just above a hack. That should be the name of my new DVD: “Chris Rock: Slightly Above Hack”.
How would you sort Britney Spears out?
The only thing Britney can do at this point is sing. And probably there’s some rehab to be done. But her bad behaviour isn’t really that bad, when you think about it. It’s just because everyone has this weird angelic impression of her. People say, “Oh, she got mad at the press.” Well, Sean Penn does that all the time.
What’s your stagewear?
A Paul Smith suit. The cool thing about his suits is that they are cut for a thin guy but don’t look too fey.
When was the last time you were in a fight?
In my first year on Saturday Night Live I was still living in Brooklyn and these guys robbed me. I got punched in the face by a big guy, ended up on the ground and all I could think was, “I can’t believe I didn’t get knocked out.”
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever bought?
A snakeskin jacket that cost $2,000. I remember the lady behind the counter telling me, “It’s legal snake.” I mean, I’d hate to get busted at the border when a guard says, “Sir, do you have the papers for that jacket?”
What’s your karaoke song?
Karaoke isn’t fair when you’re a comedian. The whole idea is to get people laughing and enjoying themselves, and I’m a professional funny guy. I kind of do a Bill Murray thing from Lost In Translation. [Sings Soft Cell] “This is your last chance… for love.”
What would you do if you woke up white?
My God, I’d probably go back to sleep. Terence Trent D’Arby said it right years ago: that if you’re famous and black, it’s almost like being white. People are nice to you, you get the benefit of the doubt…
What would you like your epitaph to be?
I have two daughters and I always say if I die and people just talk about my jokes, I’ve f***ed up as a father. Let’s hope it says something like “Beloved Daddy”.