Tony Rock: Brotherly Love

We don’t know what Chris Rock was thinking when he titled his new show Everybody Hates Chris, but America is loving the Rock family right now. Tony Rock may be the lesser-known brother, but don’t think of him as some Tito Jackson, background player standing behind Chris Rock.

Rock has been a stand-up comedian for more than six years, performing at reputable venues including the Apollo Theater, The Comedy Store, The Improv, Icehouse, Comedy Strip and New York Comedy Club, as well as headlining at Los Angeles’ Laugh Factory and New York’s Caroline’s. In 1997, he was a writer on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show, and parlayed that into acting. He now has a supporting role working with Duane Martin in the UPN series All Of Us.

Tony takes being from Brooklyn, growing up poor and the art of comedy, mixes it all up and makes a steady rain of jokes out of his life. He gives Alternatives his take on Hip-Hop, working with Will Smith, and the question that comes to our minds: who is funnier - Tony or Chris? Alternatives: Tell me about the character Dirk Black, the character you’re playing right now on All Of Us. How would you describe him?

Tony: Tony Rock is so closely related to Dirk Black, it’s not even a stretch. Dirk probably has a better job; he has to run a TV show. Other than that, we have a lot of similarities. But I haven’t been divorced as many times as him though.

AHHA: How many times have you been divorced?

Tony: I’ve never been married.

AHHA: What is it like working with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith?

Tony: It’s just what everybody imagines it to be. Just the name association alone is a great thing. I go into auditions, it’s like, ‘That’s the guy that Will hired’. I get a lot of perks because of my association, but I also get a lot of hate because of my association. It’s just like being signed to Bad Boy in the ‘90s, either people will love you for it, or they’re gonna hate you for it.

AHHA: There’s been some cast changes on the show. With Elise Neal leaving, how has that changed the show?

Tony: It hasn’t changed anything, as far as I’m concerned. Elise no longer wanted to be associated with the show, and she’s no longer associated with the show. I wanted to be there, so everybody got what they wanted. Like when N.W.A. lost Ice Cube, they kept it moving.

AHHA: How did you get into comedy?

Tony: I was always into comedy. I was the class clown. I was the kid on the school bus making everybody laugh. It was just a matter of time before I could get on stage and get paid for it.

AHHA: What’s the easiest and hardest thing about comedy writing?

Tony: The easiest thing is that comedy is all around you. You just have to be perceptive and pick up on it. The hardest thing is that you have to pick up on it. It’s right there; you just have to see the joke. If you watch the news tonight, you’re gonna think what you think about it. But when I watch he news, I’m looking for the joke in everything.

AHHA: So how is it that so many people grow up in the hood, in situations that society sees as not funny, and they become comedians?

Tony: That’s a great question. Here’s why: it goes back to the Black man’s heritage. When we were slaves, all we had as slaves was our faith and our ability to laugh. For 400 years we were persecuted and murdered and tormented. Every other horrible atrocity was inflicted upon the Black man. The only thing that kept us going through 400 years of slavery was our faith and out sense of humor. That’s why till this day Black people are the most religious and we are the funniest, because we can see the beauty in horror.

I grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, one of the worst neighborhoods in America. But something funny is funny. I know how to laugh at the good and laugh at the bad. I grew up broke, and somebody else that walked in my shoes might say, ‘This is horrible’. But me, I say, ‘This is hilarious that me and all my brothers are here sharing a bowl of soup. This is funny to me.’ So when I share it with you and tell you how much fun I had doing it, you’re gonna laugh.

AHHA: Why didn’t you become a rapper?

Tony: Because I don’t feel like getting shot. I’m skinny; nine bullets would take me out. I do love Hip-Hop though. I love it a lot.

AHHA: What are you listening to right now?

Tony: As I’m driving right now, I’m listening to the Get Rich or Die Tryin’ soundtrack.

AHHA: What do you like better: being on TV or stand-up?

Tony: Stand-up, because it’s from the heart. Being on TV is something that stand-up has afforded me, but stand-up is where Tony Rock is more comfortable.

AHHA: Can you think of anytime when you were uncomfortable doing stand-up?

Tony: I’ve been booed off stage several times, that’s just the nature of the beast. I’ve had people throw things at the stage; I’ve had altercations after the show because I made fun of some guy’s girl. It all happens, but that’s the beauty of it and the horror of it. You gotta take the good with the bad.

AHHA: You grew up with eight brothers and sisters?

Tony: Seven boys, one girl.

AHHA: So how did you get attention?

Tony: I didn’t - that’s why I’m on stage now in a room full of strangers. I’m the middle child too, so attention was like, ‘What?’ When I was getting in trouble, I got a lot of attention - that’s why I got in a lot of trouble as a kid.

AHHA: So who’s funnier: you or your brother Chris?

Tony: I think Chris is the greatest comedic mind of our time. He is the CEO of the company, the guy with the corner office and I’m in the mailroom. I’m a huge fan of my brother.

AHHA: Do you get a lot of comparisons to him?

Tony: Yeah, we grew up together, have the same parents, same household. Some of our queues are the same on the same topic, but not a lot. When people come to see my show, the reality of it is a lot of people are coming to see Tony Rock because he’s Chris Rock’s brother. I don’t mind, because I know the comedy club owners are just trying to put asses in the seat. But by the end of the night, I truly believe I can win you over.

AHHA: What is 2006 looking like for you?

Tony: More of the same, I just want to stay consistent. People make New Year’s resolutions like January 1 is the only day they can start doing something constructive with their lives. But every day you wake up is a new day to start doing something. You can quit smoking on October 11 just like you can quit on January 1.

I got a movie coming out in the spring with Donald Faison, Whoopi Goldberg and Paul Mooney. It’s called Homie Spumoni and it’s a comedy. All Of Us Season Three on your tube. Everybody Hates Chris Thursdays…the Rock brothers are running the UPN Network. Oh, and shout outs to Brooklyn.