Chris Rock Adds Broadway to His Funny Resume
How do you top a winter in which you've made fun of Oprah Winfrey to her face, gleefully butchered a classic Simon and Garfunkel song during a telethon and made a guest appearance on Kanye West's mega-selling CD?
If you're Chris Rock, the next stop is Broadway.
"I always look for everything," says the comedian, sitting at a table at the theater-district hangout Sardi's before rehearsals of his new gritty play by Stephen Adly Guirgis.
"You want to give your audience something funny or something good — that can be anything. It can be a play, it can be a movie," he says. "Hey, I was on Kayne's record! That's funnier than probably anything I've done in a couple of years. You know what I mean? How can I be funny this year?"
The answer now is "The Motherf----- With the Hat," a play that Rock describes as "'The Honeymooners' with drugs." It's about a man on parole and trying to live clean with his volatile girlfriend, who is far from sober. Rock, making his Broadway debut, plays the man's drug counselor.
"Honestly, it was the best thing I read all last year. It was better than every movie script, every book — it was better than everything," he says. "I read a couple of other plays and thought, 'This is easily the best one I've read.'"
Director Anna D. Shapiro, who won a Tony Award for "August: Osage County," says Rock is working hard to meld with fellow actors Bobby Cannavale, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Annabella Sciorra and Yul Vazquez.
"The day is filled with a lot of laughing and hard work and generosity, and all of that is because of who he is," she says. "He's refining a skill he already has. He understands the technical demands of that now every day better and better."
Rock, 46, is just the latest comedian to be drawn to Broadway this season, joining Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Jim Gaffigan, Dane Cook, Colin Quinn, John Leguizamo and Kathy Griffin.
"People want to work, man," Rock says. "They don't make Sydney Pollack movies any more. They're not making 'Marathon Man' any more. So if you want to act — if you want to be in something of substance — and you're not 19, it's hard."