Tony Rock is literally everywhere right now.
He is all over your television, hosting HBO’s “All Def Comedy” series, appearing on BET’s “Black Card Revoked,” and has a role in the new CBS comedy series, “Living Biblically,” which airs on Monday nights. And if that isn’t enough, he is also seemingly in many places at once, since he is also in the midst of a nationwide comedy tour, with stops almost every other day in city after city.
If anyone ever wondered if he could make a name for himself without his famous brother, comedian Chris Rock, Tony has laid that matter to rest.
Traveling the way he does, doing all the TV, film and stand-up the way he does, I had to ask if this was all as glamorous and fun as it seemed. Surely going from hotel to hotel and city to city couldn’t be all fun and games. Could it?
“When it starts out its all very exciting,” Rock said, talking about the stand-up tour. “Everything is glitz and glamour. But after a while it is just part of the grind. It’s what you do.”
With celebrity and success comes pressure. Rock says he doesn’t really have much down time these days. Which isn’t a bad thing when you’re working to keep your name out there. “I don’t have downtime. When you’re doing a comedy tour, on your downtime you have to keep writing to keep it fresh.”
Rock was referring to the fact that while shows from city to city may share a lot of material, it is also important that he keep up all the time with what’s happening in the news so his shows can be current with what’s going on. Before hitting a certain city he also checks the news in that city so that he can comment on what’s on the mind of that audience as well.
While the need to always be “on the job” can seem daunting the good news for Rock is that he loves comedy so much it is like his own hobby. So performing so often and writing so much is what he does for fun, not just work. Even when not working, Rock likes to spend his time at comedy clubs watching other comics do their thing. So his work is his life. He says one of his great joys is coming across young comics before they break big and knowing he has seen someone before everyone else has.
Rock has seen a lot of comedians, and learns from many of them. The comedian who make him laugh the most, aside from his brothers Chris and Jordan, who is also a comedian, is Dave Chappelle. The ones no longer with us that he loves are Richard Pryor, who Rock considers the King, Patrice O’Neal and George Carlin.
But while all comedians have people who influenced them and their style, ultimately who they are and what their identity becomes is formed from time on the road, appearing night after night in clubs and cities, large and small. That’s the grind that leads to the formation of the act that everyone later comes to recognize and identify with a comedian.
And comedians are no different than the rest of us. They have cities they love to go to and those they…well let’s say they have cities they don’t get too excited about performing in. When asked his favorite place to perform, Rock did not hesitate, answering almost before I could get the question out.
“D.C. Improv is the greatest comedy club in the country,” Rock said, referring to Washington, D.C. “It’s a place full of black people with their shit together.”
I didn’t think he would be willing to name the city that he likes going to the least. But to my surprise he threw out a name without hesitation. “Cincinnati sucks!” he said. “Because it has a lot of miserable people who just aren’t happy. A lot of haters. A hater is a person who isn’t happy in their own life so they’re not happy about your life either.”
This doesn’t mean Rock avoids Cincinnati. He is a professional and he knows there is something to be learned everywhere. Besides, he likes a challenge and remember, comedy is not just a profession, it is also his hobby. So his attitude is “bring it on.”
Rock has already accomplished more than most people ever dream of, but that doesn’t mean he has done all that he wants to do. He wants to write and direct movies and also create television shows. Rock recognizes that real longevity and real power comes from being behind the shows and not just a hired gun. And he wants to be known for creating these movies and shows not just in comedy but also in drama.
“Stand-up comedy makes everything possible but I want to be known for a lot more,” he says.
It looks like Rock is well on his way to that goal.