Chris Rock isn’t Jewish, but he certainly talks about Jews quite a lot.
Just before I interviewed him for The Guardian last month, he appeared on Bill Maher’s show and talked about his childhood. At Maher’s probing, he recalled the traumas of his high school experience, having been bussed from an all black neighborhood to an all white school where he was subsequently picked-on. And yet Rock couldn’t recall the formative racism of his youth without drawing parallels to another minority in town, who (believe it or not) he said, had it worse.
Rock: Yeah, yeah. The school I went to—junior high, high school and grade school—were pretty Italian and Irish, and so they beat up the blacks and they beat up the Jews. So I would kinda be friends with the Jewish guys….I used to work at the NY Daily News and it was like ‘On The Waterfront’ where they pick you and there’s no rhyme or reason to why they pickin’ anybody. Well it was Italians first, then the Irish, then the blacks then the Jews and that’s in ‘89, ‘88, ‘87, ‘89.
Maher: The blacks were ahead of the Jews?
Rock: The blacks were ahead of the Jews, even then. So it’s always been me and some Jewish guy…
Likewise, Rock couldn’t talk about his comedy without talking about his Jewish brethren. When I asked him if he thought there was a “black humor” the way there is Jewish humor, he bristled: “I think more white people come to see me do stand-up than most white comedians cos comedy’s just comedy,” he told me. “I don’t consider myself a black comedian. I am a comedian.”
But can you have such a universalist attitude when race figures so prominently in your routine? “I don’t talk about race any more than Jackie Mason talks about being Jewish,” he insists. “Is Jon Stewart a Jewish comedian?” he shoots back. “Or a political comedian? I watch the guy all the time; he says three jokes and if the joke doesn’t kill, he’ll say something Yiddish. God bless him. We’re all comedians; we’re all brothers.”
Read more Chris Rock here.