Who Is Chris Rock?

Chris Rock is a comedian and actor who is widely considered one of the best stand-up comedians of all time. He is most noted for his raw humor and covers a wide range of sometimes controversial subjects in his stand-up, including race relations, family dynamics, relationships, celebrities, and wealth disparity. After appearing on Saturday Night Live, Rock achieved breakthrough success with his stand-up comedy specials and went on to star in and produce a large number of films and television series. He has won four Emmy Awards and three Grammys for his comedy specials and albums, created the popular sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, and has hosted the Academy Awards twice.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Christopher Julius Rock
BORN: February 7, 1965
BIRTHPLACE: Andrews, South Carolina
SPOUSE: Malaak Compton (1996–2016)
CHILDREN: Lola and Zahara

Early Life

Chris Rock was born on February 7, 1965, in Andrews, South Carolina. Rock is the eldest of seven children born to Julius Rock, a truck driver, and Rose Rock, a teacher. When Chris was a toddler, his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

He was bused to a nearly all-white public school, where he was subjected to discrimination and bullying at an early age. Rock later wrote about this in his autobiography, Rock This: “My parents assumed I’d get a better education in a better neighborhood. What I actually got was a worse education in a worse neighborhood. And a whole bunch of a–-whippings.” These early bouts with racism greatly influenced his comedic material.

Early Career

chris rock and eddie murphy in a crowded room, smiling at the camera and wearing black suits

Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy attended the SNL 40th anniversary special in 2015. Murphy discovered Rock while he was performing stand-up comedy in 1984.
Getty Images

After dropping out of high school, Rock began working various minimum wage restaurant jobs and started performing stand-up comedy in 1984, at the Catch a Rising Star comedy clubs in New York City. At age 18, Rock was discovered by one of his comedy idols, Eddie Murphy, who befriended Rock and took him under his wing. Murphy gave Rock his first film role: a small part as a parking valet in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987).

Rock continued to perform stand-up comedy, while other film and television opportunities began coming his way. He appeared in Keenan Ivory Wayans’ I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988) and had a small role on the television series Miami Vice, before undertaking the more dramatic role of Pookie, a drug-addicted informant, in Mario Van Peebles’ New Jack City (1991).

‘Saturday Night Live’

chris rock holding his arms and hands outward while speaking on a stage, with a band seated behind him

Chris Rock performs his monologue while hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live in 2014. He had previously been a cast member on the sketch comedy television series.
Getty Images

In 1990, Rock followed in Murphy’s footsteps by joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, where he enjoyed some success with his creation of the Black power character Nat X. Rock was part of what became known as the “Bad Boys of SNL” along with fellow comedians Chris Farley, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Adam Sandler, many of whom Rock would continue to collaborate with in the future.

READ More:   Ernest Hemingway

Rock got less screen time than his fellow Bad Boys and found himself occasionally frustrated with the show, especially when he was often asked to play parts that emphasized his race. These creative differences led to his departure from SNL in 1993 to appear on the competing sketch comedy series In Living Color, which was canceled one month after he joined the show.

Stand-Up Specials and Breakthrough

Rock continued performing stand-up during his time on Saturday Night Live. He released his first comedy album, Born Suspect, in 1991, followed by his first HBO comedy special, Big A** Jokes, in 1994. But it was his second HBO special, Bring the Pain (1996), that truly marked a turning point in Rock’s career.

Bring the Pain touched on many subjects, including dating and marriage, the O.J. Simpson murder case, and race relations in America. A controversial bit when Rock extensively used the N word drew particular attention. Bring the Pain received critical acclaim, and for it, Rock won his first two Emmy Awards.Variety called itone of the truly remarkable hours of comedy ever to air on television,” and said it turned Rock “from a respected but largely unmarketed standup to the front burner of comedy’s future.”

The special helped Rock develop a successful career in film and comedy, but he continued performing stand-up and releasing comedy albums during this time. Rock produced several more comedy specials for HBO and won Grammy Awards for his albums Roll With the New (1997), Bigger and Blacker (1999), and Never Scared (2004).

Movie Career

kevin james, chris rock, and adam sandler sit on a couch in front of rob schneider, david spade, and jimmy kimmel who are standing behind, in the background is a tv set for jimmy kimmel live

Chris Rock appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2010 with his Grown Ups co-stars Kevin James, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and Adam Sandler.
Getty Images

Rock appeared in a handful of small film roles during the 1990s, including the Eddie Murphy comedy Boomerang (1992), the Steve Martin movie Sgt. Bilko (1996), and the Chris Farley film Beverly Hills Ninja (1997). But his breakthrough stand-up comedy specials led to bigger and more frequent movie roles, such as supporting roles on Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), Dogma (1999), and Nurse Betty (2000).

By the 2000s, Rock began appearing in lead roles while also increasingly working as a writer and producer on films. His first starring role was in Down to Earth (2001), a remake of the 1978 Warren Beatty film Heaven Can Wait. Rock co-wrote Down to Earth along with fellow comedian Louis C.K. The two also co-wrote the 2001 comedy Pootie Tang.

Rock has continued to make consistent film appearances over the decades, directing and starring in the political comedy Head of State (2003) with Bernie Mac, and making films with Adam Sandler like The Longest Yard (2005), Grown Ups (2010), and Grown Ups 2 (2013). He delivered voice-acting performances in the Madagascar films and Jerry Seinfeld’s The Bee Movie (2007) and branched into the horror genre with a starring role in Spiral (2021), a spinoff from the Saw film series.

Television Career

In 1997, Rock began hosting his own late-night television series, The Chris Rock Show, featuring guest interviews such as Johnnie Cochran, Arsenio Hall, Conan O’Brien, George Carlin, and Jesse Jackson. Running for five seasons on HBO, the series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program in 1999, as well as earned Rock a CableACE Award for Best Entertainment Host.

In 2005, Rock debuted a sitcom called Everybody Hates Chris, the title of which spoofed the perennially popular Everybody Loves Raymond. Set in the mid-1980s, Everybody Hates Chris was inspired by Rock’s teenage years growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York City.

READ More:   How Yolanda Saldívar’s Obsession With Selena Turned Deadly

Everybody Hates Chris quickly became the second most-watched comedy on UPN and drew critical acclaim. The American Film Institute named it one of the best 10 television shows of 2007, saying it “provides a very real look at growing up in America—a challenge that demands a discussion of race and class often absent from television today.”

Recent Work

Rock has appeared in several of Adam Sandler’s films for the Netflix streaming service, including Sandy Wexler (2017) and The Week Of (2018). He also reunited with Eddie Murphy during an appearance in the movie Dolemite Is My Name (2019). Rock made his Broadway theater debut in 2011 in the Stephen Adly Guirgis play The Mother—er with the Hat, which earned him a nomination for the Drama League Award for Most Distinguished Performance.

Rock had a starring role in the fourth season of the acclaimed FX anthology television series Fargo. Set in the 1950s, Rock portrayed Loy Cannon, the lead of a criminal syndicate called The Cannon Limited, which was described as “a different sort of refugee community fleeing the Deep South and Jim Crow as part of the Great Migration.”

Rock has also continued performing stand-up comedy, releasing his sixth comedy special, Tamborine, on Netflix in 2018. On March 4, 2023, Rock released the live comedy special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage on Netflix, marking the streaming service’s first live event.

Oscar Hosting and Controversy

as seen from backstage, chris rock walks around a theater stage, he is looking out toward the audience and his hands are clasped together, audience members are visible in the background, chris is wearing a suit with black pants, a white suit jacket and shirt and a black bow tie

Chris Rock hosted the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in 2016. It was his second time hosting the awards show.
Getty Images

Rock hosted the 77th Academy Awards ceremony in 2005, a performance that drew mixed reviews. Some took offense at his jokes mocking actors like Jude Law, as well as his remarks mocking award shows in general. Before the Oscars ceremony, Rock said: “What straight Black man sits there and watches the Oscars? Show me one. And they don’t recognize comedy, and you don’t see a lot of Black people nominated, so why should I watch it?”

Nevertheless, Rock was invited back to host the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in 2016, a year in which the Oscars were widely criticized with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite due to the lack of racial diversity among the nominees. Rock received positive reviews for his hosting performance, during which he directly addressed the controversy and Hollywood’s hiring practices.

“Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to,” Rock said during the monologue. “Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is. But things are changing. Things are changing.”

“The Slap”

will smith slapping chris rock across the face on a stage, with both men wearing black tuxedos

Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022, in what has been described as one of the most infamous moments in television history.
Getty Images

In 2022, Rock was involved with what has been described as one of the most infamous moments in pop culture history when he was slapped by actor Will Smith during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony. Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature when he saw Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in the audience and ad-libbed a joke about Jada starring in a sequel G.I. Jane, due to her shaved head.

Jada, who shaves her head due to alopecia areata, was visibly annoyed by the joke. Despite initially laughing at the joke himself, Smith walked onto the stage, slapped Rock across the face, then sat back down and yelled at Rock from his seat. Rock appeared stunned, jokingly calling it the “greatest night in the history of television,” before continuing his presentation.

The moment, which became known as “The Slap” and “Slapgate,” largely overshadowed the rest of the ceremony, during which Smith later won Best Actor for his role in King Richard. Smith later resigned from the Academy, which condemned his actions and banned him from future ceremonies for 10 years. Smith and Rock were both praised and defended from varying parties, with some criticizing Rock for mocking Jada Pinkett Smith’s medical condition.

READ More:   Gwyneth Paltrow

Personal Life

Rock married Malaak Compton on November 23, 1996. The pair welcomed daughter Lola Simone in 2002 and daughter Zahra Savannah in 2004. In 2014, Rock filed for divorce from Compton, admitting to infidelity and porn addiction. Their divorce was finalized on August 22, 2016.

Citation Information

  • Article Title: Chris Rock Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/actors/chris-rock
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: March 4, 2023
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014

Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

Headshot of Biography.com Editors

Biography.com Editors
Staff Editorial Team and Contributors

The Biography.com staff is a team of people-obsessed and news-hungry editors with decades of collective experience. We have worked as daily newspaper reporters, major national magazine editors, and as editors-in-chief of regional media publications. Among our ranks are book authors and award-winning journalists. Our staff also works with freelance writers, researchers, and other contributors to produce the smart, compelling profiles and articles you see on our site. To meet the team, visit our About Us page: https://www.biography.com/about/a43602329/about-us

Headshot of Colin McEvoy

Colin McEvoy
Senior News Editor, Biography.com

Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.