"There's a civil war going on with black people, and there's two sides. There's black people and there's niggers. And niggers have got to go. Niggers are breaking into your house, and you want to save your money? Put your money in your books. Books are like kryptonite to a nigger." It's razor-sharp, socially critical jokes such as this that turned Chris Rock into one of the nation's most popular standup comics and a magnet for controversy. Rock has made a career of confronting difficult subjects with comedic candor that is frequently hilarious, enlightening, and, of course, sometimes offensive. Rock uses the same satiric formula of insight, wit, and acerbic language that made Lenny Bruce and George Carlin legends, and he seems to relish the dust-ups his work instigates. In 2005, shortly before hosting the Oscars, he caused an uproar by saying that the only men who watched the awards show were gay. Last year, he shouted a profanity on live primetime TV in Britain, forcing the BBC to issue several public apologies. Despite these incidents, he continues to get more popular. And with George Carlin's (for whom Rock frequently expresses adoration) passing last month, Rock stands alone in modern standup as the premier comic unwilling to soften his approach to humor while pointing out society's shortcomings.
Fri., July 18, 7 p.m., 2008
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