Chris Rock

On this date in 1965, comedian, actor and producer Christopher Julius Rock III was born in Andrews, S.C. Shortly after Rock was born, his father, a truck driver and his mother, a teacher, moved to New York City. Rock was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn along with an older half-brother and three younger brothers. Rock’s parents, hoping it would improve his education, arranged to bus him to a different neighborhood, where he attended an almost entirely white public high school. He was subjected to racist bullying and harassment, and ended up dropping out, earning a GED. Comedic great Eddie Murphy discovered Rock performing stand-up in 1983 when Rock was just 18. In 1990 he joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" and began appearing in bit roles in movies. He stayed with "SNL" for three years. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Rock’s stand-up was featured in five HBO specials, cementing his place as one of the greatest comedians of his generation. He won Grammy Awards for his spoken comedy albums, “Roll With the New,” “Bigger and Blacker” and “Never Scared.”

Rock’s grandfather was a preacher and Rock says he was influenced by his performance style on the altar. However, that influence did not extend to religion. Rock’s comedy is peppered with skepticism about religion, including an episode of HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show” in which he visited with different faith leaders in a bit that mocked several major religions. He  directed and starred in the movie “Top Five” in 2014. His acting career also includes appearances in movies such as “Dogma” (1999), “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” (2001), “Grown Ups,” (2010) and "Grown Ups 2" (2013). Netflix announced in 2016 that it would release two new stand-up specials, with Rock being paid $40 million per special. The first, "Chris Rock: Tamborine," was released in February 2018 and was filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He married Malaak Compton in 1996. They divorced in 2016 and have two daughters, Lola Simone (born 2002) and Zahra Savannah (born 2004).

“When you’re black there’s like no religion to turn to. It’s like, Christianity? I don’t think so. White people justified slavery and segregation through Christianity so a black Christian is like a black person with no f***king memory.”

—Outtake from the 1989 documentary short "Who Is Chris Rock?"

Compiled by Dayna Long; photo by Everett Collection, Shutterstock.com

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