Chris Rock Talks Racism, Politics, Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Political Correctness and More

December 1, 2014

Chris Rock opens up on the Bill Cosby scandal, the deaths of fellow comedians Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, political correctness and comedy, race relations and more in a wide-ranging cover story interview with Frank Rich for New York magazine.

The 49-year-old Chris Rock is on the promo trail for his new movie, ‘Top Five.’ He recently stirred controversy upon returning to SNL to host for the first time in nearly 20 years. He delivered a monologue which was very much a standup comedy routine complete with his jokes about 9-11 and Boston Marathon. Some might find such fodder for comedy controversial, but indeed, that’s the point of comedy.

His New York Magazine interview with Frank Rich is billed a “conversation” and the first he has had with the famed critic and columnist since 1996. Chris Rock addressed comedy and the intense reactions, backlash and outrage it can stir. He noted that political correctness is “stronger than ever.”

With this in mind, he said, that he doesn’t do shows on college campuses because “they’re way too conservative.” He went on to clarify, saying, “Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault.”

He continued, “You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”

He spoke of the chilling effect of social media in particular. As we know, a standup comedy routine or excerpt thereof uploaded to YouTube can quickly go viral.

Rock said, “It is scary because the thing about comedians is that you’re the only ones who practice in front of a crowd. Prince doesn’t run a demo on the radio. But in stand-up, the demo gets out.”

Rock added, “It was just like, ‘This is not as much fun as it used to be.I remember talking to George Carlin before he died and him saying the exact same thing.”

Rock noted that few are “good enough” to have their standup work for them without some work and preparation. He said, “Everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like f-cking Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, ‘Oh, I went too far,’ and you would just brush it off.”

He goes on to say, “But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”

He also weighed in on race, saying, “When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.”

He added, “So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years.” Rock adds, “The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.”

He spoke about Robin Williams’ suicide and said, “Comedians kill themselves. Talk to 100 comedians this week, everybody knows somebody who killed themselves. I mean, we always say ignorance is bliss. Well, if so, what’s the opposite? Some form of misery. Being a comedian, 80 percent of the job is just you notice sh*t, which is a trait of schizophrenics too.”

He praised the late Joan Rivers, calling her a “great person” as well as an “underrated comedian.” He said of her, “Who the hell’s funnier than Joan Rivers?… The compliment you give of a comedian is: Who wants to follow them onstage? Nobody wanted to follow Joan Rivers, ever. Even in her 80s, nobody wanted to follow her.”

Chris Rock also weighed in on Bill Cosby, saying, “I don’t know what to say. What do you say? I hope it’s not true. That’s all you can say. I really do. I grew up on Cosby. I love Cosby, and I just hope it’s not true. It’s a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin, we lost Joan, and we kind of lost Cosby.”

You can see the full interview, here.

Pictures: PR Photos

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