Chris Rock has built a career mining his childhood in New York City. But the Emmy Award-winning actor and comedian has a new perspective now that he's raising kids of his own. He opens up about bullying, helicopter parents, and why he hasn't had a PB&J in years.
The stand-up sensation has made countless quips over the years about being bullied as a boy in rough-and-tumble Brooklyn, N.Y., depicted on "Everybody Hates Chris," the TV show he created. He's also famous for his rip-roaringly funny (and brutally honest) comments about marriage and parenthood in his Emmy Award-winning specials for HBO. Now, as his new film Grown Ups 2 hits big screens in July, the provocative comic mines more coming-of-age discomforts -- that of kids and the adults who rear them -- for laughs.
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These days Rock, 48, views the wonder years from two very different vantage points: as someone who was once tormented at school and as a father of two young daughters (Lola, 11, and Zahra, 9, with wife Malaak Compton-Rock) living in an age of "helicopter" parents. And, true to form, he's got some wisdom to share.
Chris Rock: A Bullied Kid
The bullying began when he was in second grade. "We lived in Bed-Stuy [Bedford-Stuyvesant], one of the most famous ghettos in the world" is how he once described his former stomping grounds. "My mother and father wanted me to go to a better school, so I was bused to this poor, white neighborhood…I was the only black boy in my grade for most of the time. I was a little guy, too, a skinny runt."
Surprisingly, he's prepared to give his former bullies a pass -- sort of. "Of course, I'm against bullying!" Rock says with his trademark intonation. "To-tal-ly, totally against it! But on the other hand…" He pauses for comedic effect. "Who's going to cure cancer? Who's gonna figure out how to advance stem cell research? Someone who got bullied, that's who! You think Bill Gates didn't get bullied? Put the most successful men and women in the world in one room, and ask them to put their hands up to see which ones were bullied." Another beat passes before he shares his own theory: "Most of 'em!"