CHRIS ROCK: born February 7, 1965
Originally published February 7, 2016.
If there was a predominant sentiment in the 1990s, it was apathy. The introduction of Generation X to adulthood created a perfect storm of contradictory emotions. Gen Xers were angrily argumentative, but hopeless and skeptical. Nirvana was the perfect band for its time, arriving on the scene to destroy the hyper-sexualized party-child ethos of glam metal. In its place, a hollow scream of barely-comprehensible lyrics (“a mulatto, an albino / a mosquito, my libido”?): all rage and little substance. The timbre of the 1990s wasn’t revolutionary. It wasn’t a call to arms. Moments of “I have a dream” inspiration were few and far between. More than anything, the 1990s felt like a protracted tantrum – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The comedy scene in America was no different. The early 90s was the height of a comedy boom in America, ushered in by the creation of the Comedy Central network. In its earliest days, Comedy Central showed nothing but stand-up comedians and created a groundswell of excitement for stand-up comedy. Soon, every bar and stage in America was hosting an open mic comedy night. Night clubs turned into comedy clubs. By the 1980s, stand-up comedy had evolved from the one-liner comedy of the 1950s (“Take my wife, please.”) to an aggressive, hyper-political art form (Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin). But by the time the comedy boom arrived for the Gen Xers, it had returned to safe, observational comedy: airline food, weddings, the difference between men and women. And so it was a confusing time to be a young, gifted, African-American comedian like Chris Rock.
- The official Chris Rock website, ChrisRock.com